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Episode 62 : My Three Songs with Joanne Kaufmann

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This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 62. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Joanne Kaufmann, and she's joined today by her husband Kris. Joanne is a marketing strategist with a large healthcare organization in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And Kris is a media specialist with a school district in suburban Pittsburgh. Listeners may remember Joanne and Kris from Episode 55, where we focused on Kris' songs. Today we'll be talking about Joanne's list of songs. Welcome to the show, Joanne and Kris, how are you today?

Joanne Kaufmann:

We're great. Thank you, Aaron. How are you doing?

Aaron Gobler:

I'm doing well. I'm experiencing a gorgeous day in Berkeley. And we're expecting a tremendous amount of rain over the next several days, which is quite unique because we haven't had rain in like months.

Joanne Kaufmann:

We're having very similar weather but ours is just going to start getting cooler and not rain. Could not ask for more glorious day than today.

Aaron Gobler:

And would you say Pittsburgh is a very comfortable place to live in terms of climate and the seasons?

Kris Kaufmann:

It can get uncomfortably muggy in the summertime. But winters are a bit milder than what we experienced in northwestern Pennsylvania. So we'll take that trade off.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah, we joke we moved here for the balmy climate because the winds aren't biting and we don't have feet of snow from like, November 1st through mid March. It's a nice climate here except for a couple months in the summer just gets a very humid.

Aaron Gobler:

And Kris, you said uncomfortably muggy? Is there such a thing as comfortably muggy? Is there a good muggy?

Kris Kaufmann:

(Laughter) You know, I don't think so.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay. So Joanne, I've been following your Facebook posts about the concerts you've been attending. So I'd like to know can you like share some something about one or two of them?

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think the first one would be, that I could share about, would be last night we saw Elton John's farewell Goodbye Yellow Brick Road tour, or Farewell Yellow Brick Road, for the second time. So he's like doing a tour after a tour. So he's kind of like baiting and switching us on that first one...

Kris Kaufmann:

The yellow brick road is circular.

Joanne Kaufmann:

There you go. I like that. As usual, Elton put on an amazing show. If this really is his last tour so he can focus on his family, we feel very lucky to have seen him again. Because over the years he has just gotten better and better. In the 70s, his shows were very wild and very much visual spectacles. As he's gotten older, that aspect has really gone away and it's really all about the songs and the musicianship and you just cannot you can't beat Elton. As a friend said last night, the concert's legendary. We got to see Santana finally after two years of COVID related delays, and then another delay when the poor man collapsed on stage in Michigan due to the heat. We finally got to see Carlos Santana. I had seen him in 1983. And that was the last time I'd seen him. Seeing him now and the band he has it was it was spectacular. And I am an aspiring drummer. I'll be ready to audition for the nursing home band by the time I'm proficient but his wife Cindy Blackman Santana is an incredibly accomplished, well known drummer and to be able to see her drum was really almost life altering experience for me. It is amazing to watch her, I say this about many drummers, and sometimes I think that being a drummer is not solely being musician, it's also being an athlete because of everything involved physically. And she really exemplifies that athleticism.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Wow. Well, thank you for sharing that, Joanne. I know you both go to a lot of concerts, and I'm really enjoying reading about your experiences on Facebook. So keep keep that going.

Joanne Kaufmann:

We have a fan!

Aaron Gobler:

(Laughter) Yeah. Yeah, I'm a groupie of you guys go to concerts. Joanne, since you and Kris were on the show a few months ago, since that time, is there anything you wish you had talked about then? Is there something you want to add today?

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think since the last time we talked, and you'd asked me if I would want to be on this show, I immediately started working on my list of three songs. And when you start looking at the music that has been the soundtrack of your life, it is incredibly hard to pick three songs, I had a list, and that list changed and it changed again. And now I just like have a running list of songs. But it's really, it really made me appreciate, although I always have known that music has always been there for me. But when you start looking at your favorite songs, and why they're your favorite songs, or why they're meaningful to you, it really it's kind of like time travel in a way. Okay, this was this is song is so meaningful to me, because of X, Y or Z that was going on in my life at that time. And then this one over here, it's really meaningful for me, but it's another time. So it was in doing that it was like I was going everywhere from the 60s to the 2000s and the 2010s 2020s, just trying to come up with this list. And it was almost in ways like looking through a scrapbook of my life because I was able to link so much of of what was going on in my life based upon what songs there were. And I'm just a weirdo, because I know when we get together with friends for holidays, or whatever. And if we play Trivial Pursuit, I can always come up with answers. And they're like, how did you know this? And it's like, because I know what songs were popular at the time or what was meaningful to me and it makes Kris nuts. It let me see how music shaped my life, how music is linked to almost every important what I'll call tentpole experiences in my life. And I think that's probably for a lot of people. But until you're put into a situation like this where, Oh god, I have to pick three songs from the entire catalog of the world. You don't really necessarily focus on that and see that those those linkages.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, I hear you. And it's almost like being confronted with having to take three photographs, out of a Bankers Box full of photos that you've collected over those years and, and then you can spend like a day just looking at them and remembering things from the photos. I've gotten a lot of feedback that just the experience like you're describing just the experience of finding your three songs can be a real journey. I'm so delighted that you took me up on the offer for you to be on the show as the primary interviewee and I'm really looking forward to going through your list of songs and hearing why they're important to you. So let's jump into your list. The songs you chose were 'When the Coast is Clear" by Jimmy Buffett from 1986. "Sacred Book of Favorite Days" by Todd Sucherman from 2020. And "Back to You" by Steve Porcaro from 2016. I'm eager for us to listen to these songs together, and I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's listen to your first song, "When the Coast is Clear" by Jimmy Buffett.

Aaron Gobler.:

Joanne I'll admit I only know a few Jimmy Buffett songs. And they're the most famous ones like "Margaritaville"; don't judge me. I'd never heard this particular tune before, but I really enjoyed it. And it also surprised me it had like this whole orchestration in the background. And I just imagined that all of Jimmy Buffett songs were like Margaritaville, but obviously they're not. So I want to thank you for including this in your list. I'm eager to know like what inspired you to choose this song?

Joanne Kaufmann:

I love Jimmy Buffett. Well, most people think the group we've seen the most is Toto it's actually that we've seen Jimmy Buffett more than any other artists that we've ever seen. What I love about this song is first up Jimmy Buffett, especially when you get into his deep cuts like this one. He's an amazing storyteller, and he paints very vivid images with the lyrics. We are beach people we grew up at the beach, especially my family. Kris is not quite so much, we grew up along the shores of Lake Erie. Being at the beach was always a very big part of my life with my family. But when we take vacations, unless we're going to Germany in March to see Toto we are typically at a beach, California, Florida, French Polynesia, Hawaii, Kaui, we're at beaches, and to me, when I am at the beach, for me, it really is like, I'm in that song. I am one with myself there, it's a place where I can kind of tune out the rest of the world, and just kind of reset on who Joanne is, when she's there. Knowing who I am, at that point in time, and really seeing myself very, very clearly, it's not when the beaches are busy, it's when we're just or maybe it's just me, when we were at the beach in April, there were times Kris was off doing other things. And I was down at the beach by myself, just walking, it doesn't have to be anything special just walking, it's not busy. Sometimes I've looked around at people and it's like, I kind of categorize people walking at the beach into the three types of people. And there are the people who are clueless and they're the people staring at their phones, while they're walking. And not really just being and taking in the environment where they are and not kind of letting go of 21st century technology to kind of find themselves. Then there are people like me are looking around and looking at looking inward and really just feeling who they are and being who they are. And then there are those people that I aspire to be and those are the people who are there, and you can just tell from their expressions, they know who they are. They know where they're going. And there's no question at all. And I think that, well, I normally fall into that middle group, I think a lot of people sort of go in and out between that questioning, seeking group in the middle and, and that confident group. And I just think it sort of comes down to where you are at that point, in that time, when you're at that beach. To me, it's just a place to kind of kind of find your center again. And that's what it really is, for me just hanging out, finding my center. And sort of like letting the ocean, letting the lake, even if I'm just walking in up to my ankles, sort of wash away all the ancillary noise of life that gets in the way of maybe some some clear thinking.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I think everybody needs or everybody could really use some kind of quiet place or a special place, or contemplative space like you're describing. I grew up on the East Coast, only about 60 miles from Atlantic City and we visited Atlantic City a lot. So I was very used to being close proximity to the ocean. And then on the West Coast now is where I live. I'm very right here at the San Francisco Bay, there's something to be said about a large body of water, if it be a lake or something else that you can't see necessarily the other side. And this idea of your smallness, compared to this expanse of water. And like where one thing stops and one thing starts can be pretty intense. But I hear you also about like, if you're on a beach and this is just as busy as a city street, it doesn't necessarily have that same kind of feeling. I'm gathering that's what you're describing. And that there are some people who just walk around the beach with their phone or something in to them. It's just another thoroughfare but this song "When the Coast is Clear", I didn't really study the lyrics but is that kind of what Buffett is describing? Is that where he can find a quiet place?

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah, it's a place that he goes and he has a dialogue with himself with his "other me". He terms it, Hello Mr. other me. Kind of like that. What are you laughing about?

Kris Kaufmann:

Misheard song lyrics. For years I thought he was singing hello Mr. Weatherbee. All I could picture was the principal from the Archie Comics. But it's Mr. Other Me because just like the beach has two different vibes going in the tourist season and when the season is over, so to the people who are there.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah. And it's so he's having a dialogue with himself with his other self that self that usually you know that he's not quite in touch with as he's dealing with the business of daily life, you don't always have the time. And the ability to get in touch with that other you just because you're dealing with life.

Aaron Gobler:

So when you hear this song... I have a two part question, one is do you seek the song out when you're on the beach and/or when you were just sort of happen to hear this song are you immediately transported or are you kind of... has it kind of anchored you to this beach, and that you see the beach or you feel the beach, or you smell the beach when you hear this song?

Joanne Kaufmann:

No, I don't seek this out when I'm on the beach. Because the beach to me is, is the one place that is in music-free zone for me, I just I want to be there, I want to experience everything, the the sand, the surf the sounds of the birds, so I don't. However, when I hear this song, I am immediately transported to one two or three of my favorite beaches. And it's, it kind of, it's kind of a touchstone for me when I hear it, and it's like, oh, I remember that. And it's, I immediately relax.

Aaron Gobler:

I've been listening to a lot of audiobooks about hypnosis, and self-hypnosis, and just the use of the word trance that so much of our lives are in a trance when we're driving, and we get some place and we're like, I don't remember driving there. Or plenty of things in our life, we are actually in another state of consciousness, if that's the right word.

Kris Kaufmann:

Almost like being on auto-pilot.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. And that just like a hypnotist can create certain anchors and say, you know, when I touch your shoulder, you'll fall asleep or whatever that song is a trigger, the song itself could trigger you to possibly smell the beach or imagine yourself there. So it really is a very powerful trigger or anchor, hearing a song. And as the more I learned about hypnosis, it makes things clearer for me as to how important music is as a trigger. And then I can apply that when I hear people describe like you're describing, you know how the song brings you back to the beach. So yeah, very, very powerful. Is there anything else you'd like to say about the song?

Joanne Kaufmann:

The whole album is very cool but I think this is the best song on it.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Well, thank you again for including it. And I hadn't heard about this particular album. It's called "Floridays" D-A-Y-S.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah, he is really an excellent storyteller.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Very popular in concert, too. Joanne, your next song is "Sacred Book of Favorite Days" by Todd Sucherman. So let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it

Aaron Gobler.:

Joanne, I've never heard of Todd Sucherman on the other side. before. I really enjoyed the song and I want to thank you for including it. You know, I learned that he started out professionally as a drummer. And he's performed with artists like Styx, Brian Wilson, Peter Cetera and even Spinal Tap. And I'll drop a few more names here. As I was listening to it just now I hear strong sounds of like, Matthew Sweet, The Byrds, Tom Petty, and then definitely a psychedelic, kind of like, undertone to it as well. But that's not even getting to the lyrics of the song, which I'm sure you're going to talk about. What inspired you to include the song on your list?

Joanne Kaufmann:

When I think about this, this song to me, it's all about Kris and I, but I think it kind of applies to anyone and any very positive relationship. Kris and I have known each other for 43 years. Been married for 33. We were babies when we met and, and toddlers when we got married. This song makes me think, we were talking about how music brings you back. And it's kind of like going through that banker's box of photographs. But when I look back at our lives, and the best days, the favorite days, it's the sacred book of favorite days. Our relationship. I mean, I look back and yeah, they're all the fabulous vacations we've taken, but they're also just walks in the park with our dogs. I think back to one Christmas in the early 80s where despite growing up in the frozen north, there was a Christmas when it was in the 70s and I remember Kris and I going out to walk and watch the sunset at the beach on that Christmas day. That's what "Sacred Book of Favorite Days" is for me, it's it's looking at that role at our relationship. And seeing that, yeah, virtually every fabulous day I've had, every favorite day I've had in the past 43 years, Kris has been a part of even if it wasn't something that he was directly involved with, maybe it was me getting a promotion at work. Yeah, he wasn't involved in that. But yeah, he was cheering me on as I was going for it. And he was celebrating with me when it happened. It's a very cool song to me. And I think it can apply to any relationship. I can look at my my best friend and say, you know, there's that day that we were snorkeling off of Bermuda that day. That's one of my favorite days in in our relationship there. So it's just a very cool song. And I like that you picked up on all of the influences. The psychedelic aspect sort of reminds me of early Beatles a bit.

Kris Kaufmann:

And the melodic, melodic structure that it takes reminds me of Squeeze.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, okay.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Todd Sucherman is one of the most accomplished rock drummers. He took over and for Styx in the mid 90s, when their original drummer John Panozzo died. And this was his first time somebody convinced him that he could sing and this was his first time ever doing anything solo or really singing other than, like backup with Styx. It was him stepping out of his comfort zone into this new world. And it's I think he hit a home run with it because the album is very cool.

Kris Kaufmann:

And he's a nice guy.

Joanne Kaufmann:

He is. He is a super nice guy. I took a drum clinic and a masterclass with him earlier this year. And just as accomplished as he is, and as technically proficient, the man is a beast. He's just really very sweet and down-to-earth. And I know with the masterclass he had everyone get up and play 16 bars. And there was a young boy there, maybe eight years old, and he was real tiny, they had to really adjust the drum set for him because he was so tiny. This little boy and I are by far the least proficient drummers in this masterclass. Most of these people had been playing for decades. Some of them as professions, they were professional drummers. There were only 20 in the class, that's all he limited it to. Everybody's getting up there and doing this really just, really phenomenal 16 bars, and this little man got up there. And he just played time, and he didn't play it quickly. It was slow for 16 bars. And Todd made him feel so good. Because you would have thought that kid got up there and just blew the doors off the place. Yeah, it really just very down to earth. Very encouraging. Really a great guy.

Aaron Gobler:

A few thoughts enter my mind. One is, how

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah. And we have met some of those musicians anybody who's a star, especially people who we think are extremely talented, very gifted, we often think that they are superhuman or paranormal, something is different about them, right? And so I guess it is oddly rewarding when someone is really down-to-earth and a really nice person, because we imagine that they're not worldly, or they're too much in themselves or something. And yet, they're just a person. But yeah, but like you're describing with that thought with the child that there's a certain gift to being empathetic and supportive that not everybody has. in our times doing VIP, but he just really was just so incredibly down-to-earth and gracious. We were all just there absolutely in awe of him.

Aaron Gobler:

And how did you happen upon his work?

Joanne Kaufmann:

Well, I'd known him from Styx. I didn't find out about this, this CD though or this album until that master class and one day Kris came home from work and I work from home and he came in to the room and he goes, Do you know Todd Zuckerman is? and I'm like, Yeah, he's the drummer for Styx. Why? And he goes, He is having a masterclass in a clinic at N Stuff Music. And I was like, Whoa, sign me up. I got tickets that day. And it was at the clinic the day before the masterclass that he had his CD there. While he was there, you could buy it and I bought it just so I could have something signed while I was there. I started listening to and it's like this is you know, I bought it for one reason, but this is really, really good. And that's how I found Todd Sucherman outside of the drummer for Styx.

Aaron Gobler:

Right, right. Well, and just this particular song is really marvelous in how he packages the whole idea of... of all one's real favorite days having another person with them on all those pages.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yes. It's a it's a really cool album. And this song, I just absolutely have loved this song from the first time I heard it.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you for your thoughts on that. And the last song on your list is "Back to You" by Steve Porcaro. So let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Joanna, I know you and Kris are huge fans of Toto and individual members of the band too. I understand you're quite attached to the album Someday Somehow by Steve Porcaro. Why did you choose to include the song on your list?

Joanne Kaufmann:

To me on two levels, it's all about coming back to Kris. Like I said, we met when we were babies, and we got married when we were toddlers. But there was 10 years between meeting and getting married. And it was it was kind of like an ebb and flow. We'd be together, we'd not be together, we'd be together, we'd not be together, we'd be together, we'd not be together. It was kind of like the waves coming and pushing us together again. And that was that was when we were younger. But I think about a time in my work that I traveled a lot for work. And this song reminds me of this time in my life. There was one trip where I started out in Orange County hopped on a plane after a video shoot in Orange County for a couple of days. Hopped on a plane, got off in San Francisco, did a video shoot in San Francisco for a couple of days, drove north to Ferndale, did a video shoot up there for a few days, drove back down to San Francisco did another video shoot there, went to Monterey did a video shoot there and, and finally came home and I was gone for about two weeks. And I could not wait to get home to Kris after that long away. And that's what the song reminds me of. That feeling I can picture myself. So sort of like an out of body experience. Almost I can picture myself sitting in SFO watching myself just waiting for my plane to get there. And that was an odd, it was an odd feeling for me because I absolutely love San Francisco. And even though my company would have preferred that I fly back on the red eye, whenever I was in San Francisco, I would always make sure I stayed overnight at least because I enjoyed the city so much. But after that two weeks away, and all the other trips I had before that I just couldn't wait to get back to Kris. And that's what this song, particularly, in particular brings me back to that trip after a series of trips and then this long one at the end. It brought me back to Kris.

Kris Kaufmann:

Yeah, that was a long time.

Joanne Kaufmann:

That was a very long time. And it rained a lot in Northern California on that trip. I had a beautiful, I had a I had a convertible for my rental car and never got to take the top down once.

Aaron Gobler:

Aw. Was there something poignant about the album in general, that you told me privately that you have a strong connection to the entire album?

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah. In 2016/17, my mother was diagnosed with lymphoma. She went through treatment and she went into remission. And remission lasted a very short time just maybe five or six months. And there was a recurrence. And she was going through different regimens and nothing was working. Although it hadn't been said, those around her, even as she was very optimistic, kind of realized that this is going to be terminal. And I was going home to my hometown, our hometown to visit her for a weekend and asked her what she wanted to do and it was a day in the fall and she said let's go out to Port Farms, I'd like to go there, get some pumpkins. And we went out to this little farm market and when I put her in my car, I had this album on. And mind you, my mother was hardcore country, and she rarely liked any of my music. The only thing we could agree on was Barry Manilow. So she got my car and "Someday/Somehow" was on and she said to me, she goes, is this that band that you and Kris always go see, meaning Toto. And I said, Well, it's one of the members of that band. But this is his solo work. And she goes, Oh, you know what, I really like this. And so we listened to it on our trek out to the farm a half an hour away. We listened to it on the way back, before and after dinner. But that day was just kind of a perfect day we got to the farm. It wasn't super busy. And we just did really goofy things. We did the corn maze, the adult corn maze, kicked our butts, we had to cheat and go out another way. But we were successful with the children's corn maze. Let me get that in there. We were successful with a corn maze for children under 12. And we picked out pumpkins and some mums and they had big yard giant yard games like Tic-Tac-Toe and stuff. We played some of that. And when she was tired, when she couldn't go on, we'd find a bench and we'd sit and we just watch families doing their family stuff, getting their pumpkins in the pumpkin patch. And then we went to dinner, and it was just kind of the perfect day. And now let's fast-forward a few months. It's morning, I'm driving into work. I got a call from a surgeon at a hospital in our hometown. And he told me that my mother had come in through the ER and he she had to go into emergency surgery. He told me what he found. And he said, quite honestly, with your mother's health right now, I don't think she's going to survive the surgery. What do I do if she crashes? And I said if she crashes during the surgery, don't resuscitate. I had her medical POA and her advanced directives and that was you know, I was carrying out her wishes. I wasn't playing God with someone else's life. So then he said, if she makes it through the surgery, she probably will not make it through the night. But if she does, what do we do? And I said, if she does, let's transfer her care from curative to palliative, and we're into hospice. My mother had two wishes for her death. One of her wishes was that she not have pain and that she died in her home when she was able to be discharged after the surgery. I took her home to her home. And I cared for her with the assistance of a hospice nurse and a hospice doctor. Everyone kept saying it will not be long. I mean, they were very surprised that in five days, she was even discharged from the hospital. Everybody kept saying today's probably the day. Well, today's probably the day went on for five days. And my mother was mostly unconscious for those five days. When she was awake, she was not very lucid. But instructions from the nurse, the hospice nurse and the hospice doctor and the palliative care doctor in the hospital were always, they can still hear you talk to them, play their favorite music. So over these five days, I had country music on 24/7. 24/7. I am not a huge country music fan after five days of the virtually no sleep because I had to get up and give her morphine every hour. So virtually no sleep and country music 24/7 I was like, okay, it was day five, and I couldn't take country music anymore. I said okay, I'm gonna change this. And I remembered that day, months earlier when she really enjoyed this music. So I thought okay, this is legit, I can put this on and it's not going to bother her. So I put it on. And I don't remember what song was playing. But I remember it was in the first half of the album. And that was when my mother... I want to say she chose to die. That's when she that's when she chose to die. That's actually when she died and I like to think that that album brought back that really perfect day and she knew it was okay to go. So that is why this album, other than all the great songs on it, but that's really why this album means so much to me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah.

Joanne Kaufmann:

I want to believe that that music had some special connection for her because of that day.

Kris Kaufmann:

And I'll bet it did, because it was a shared page in your book of sacred days.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah. Wow. That's all very, very powerful. So I'm sure whenever you listen to the album, that that's something that's on your mind.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

So Joanne, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections like things you may have thought of while we were listening to the songs or answers to questions that I didn't ask?

Joanne Kaufmann:

No, I don't think so. I just really encourage people to go out and find Steve Porcaro, find Todd Sucherman, listen to their very unique voices. They're not household names like Jimmy Buffett. But even for artists who are household names, who if it's Jimmy Buffett, and you know, "Cheeseburger in Paradise", "Margaritaville", if it's Toto, you know, "Africa" and "Rosanna", Styx "Renegade"...

Kris Kaufmann:

If you have a favorite group, look at the personnel listing on the albums of the songs and especially like, then Google those names of some of the players. And I think you'll discover that many of them have little side or solo projects you can discover that give you a whole new dimension on their musicality.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah. And even for the artists, the groups that you that, you know, but maybe haven't dug deeply into like Jimmy Buffett, everybody knows him. He's a household name. But most people don't get into the deeper cuts and don't know, you know, what a storyteller he really is, and how much feeling there is in many of his songs.

Kris Kaufmann:

And then variety of musical styles.

Joanne Kaufmann:

True. Yes.

Kris Kaufmann:

The ballads. Sure, there, we all know the party song, but his ballads and some of his more contemplative music.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yeah, just just go out, explore, go outside of your comfort zone.

Aaron Gobler:

And I guess it's a case that a lot of artists in order to break through into pop radio at least 30, 40, 50 years ago to break into pop radio, you had to do a certain kind of formula. And so that is just by default, why we will all know "Rosanna or "Hold the Line" by Toto and especially for "Africa", because they're very, they're very easily consumable, but then never consider that those are the pop-ish songs, and they may be great pop songs. But some of their better work may actually be stuff that never actually made it on the radio. And you don't really know the full dimension of Jimmy Buffett's music if you just know him by those party songs,. Yeah, yeah. I want to thank you again, Joanne and Kris. Like last time, I had a lot of fun. I really look forward to today, just because we had a good time last time. And it sounds like you guys enjoyed yourself this time as well.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Oh, absolutely. Thank you for asking me to be a guest and allowing us to be here too.

Aaron Gobler:

And if you have any friends or colleagues, associates that you think would be great guests, then please send them my way,

Kris Kaufmann:

There are a couple people we have in mind.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, awesome. And in that same vein, I'd like to say to my listeners if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 61 : My Three Songs with Howard Feinberg

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 61. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Howard Feinberg. Howard is a nonprofit professional, who is currently the Executive Director of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San Antonio. Welcome to the show, Howard. How are you today?

Howard Feinberg:

Really terrific. And thank you for having me.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, it's my pleasure. I'm so delighted that you took time to be on the show. Can you tell me briefly about what it is you do in your professional life, like what is the Hebrew Free Loan Association?

Howard Feinberg:

It's one of those quiet non-profit organizations that exists in many communities around North America and some internationally. It helps people who are having temporary financial setbacks, to access money at 0% interest and favorable repayment rates, so that it helps them get back on their feet. And we're talking about money for things like emergency medical procedures, or you know, sending a kid to camp, burial expenses, you name the emergency, we try to help people climb out of it with dignity and without having to try to find commercial money to make up the gap.

Aaron Gobler:

And this sounds like something like you said, it's something that kind of happens in the background. That's not an organization that is advertised per se. But it sounds like this is a an organization that functions in many cities across the country.

Howard Feinberg:

That's correct. And confidentiality is key. Very few people who need to access loans, even know the people who are involved with the organization. And we preserve with as much dignity as we can any individual who might find themselves temporarily challenged financially.

Aaron Gobler:

So Howard, we traded several emails. And I noticed in your signature, there is this statement, "there's no greater gift than empowering someone to help themself".

Howard Feinberg:

That's really the essence of what our organization does. But if you go back to Maimonides' Eight Steps of Charity, or tzedakah, as we call it, which actually means justice in Hebrew, there are different levels. And one of the most significant is to be able to help somebody in a material way that that person, first of all, doesn't know who provided the assistance, and you don't know who receives it. But in terms of an actual gift to a fellow human being, you don't want to necessarily make somebody feel subservient or less than equal. And, you know, it's not the issue of let me give you something that you therefore have to rely on and it's pure charity. Rather, we want to help enable you to take responsibility for yourself and to be able to manage the challenges of life. I do believe that there's nothing better we could do for a person or a family than to give them the ability to take responsibility and and manage whatever crises they're in with the appropriate level of support from community and friends.

Aaron Gobler:

And letting them keep their their humility and human-ness throughout it all.

Howard Feinberg:

Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

Howard, thank you so much for sharing that. I think that it's just a wonderful thing that you and your organization, and these types of organizations do to support the people in our communities that are struggling the most and need a hand-up so that they can have a fuller life. So I certainly certainly appreciate that.

Howard Feinberg:

Exactly. It's it's not it's not giving somebody a handout. It's giving them a hand-up. Exactly. Love the metaphor.

Aaron Gobler:

So Howard, I believe you learned about the show through a friend of yours, Susan Kohn, who was my guest on episode 57. What inspired YOU to be a guest on the show?

Howard Feinberg:

Well, first of all, Susan and I know each other since our senior year at Stony Brook University on Long Island. She gave us a heads-up that she was going to be on the show to a bunch of friends and so I listened. And I was really enthralled, first of all, by the depth of knowledge that you obviously have, and in all manner of music and, and Susan is quite erudite and down-to-earth as well. She has a vast knowledge and is quite articulate, and you were able to bring it out. And I found the whole show to be quite enlivening. And I learned a lot about, frankly, the music that Susan chose. And I learned even more about my friend who I've known for a very long time.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for that feedback, Howard, because now I'm hearing ... you know, that you learned things about somebody who was a really good friend of yours ... that you didn't know, that's kind of rewarding that that you got to know Susan just a little bit better through her interview.

Howard Feinberg:

Absolutely. And I'm very thankful for it. But then that experience, and then the tag that you add, at the end, if you're interested, please give me a call. I just kind of was spontaneous. I said, you know, I could do that maybe and, and so I figured I would give it a try.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I'm delighted that that tag at the very end, did resonate with you or strike a chord with you, because I often feel like I'm kind of saying that into the ether. And so I'm delighted to know that there was at least one person who heard that and said, Okay, now, I'm gonna go do this. So, so I do appreciate you jumping on it.

Howard Feinberg:

I'm sure it's a lot more than a few. But, you know, it's, it's truly a beautiful thing you're doing and one of those one offs that if you didn't have somebody involved, you'd never know about. And so we have to figure out how to get your message out there a little bit broader.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I'd say Christine Lavin was incredibly important. I mean, she was on just a few episodes ago, but but she's brought me guests who then those guests have brought me guests and like, you're like a third generation. So Howard, before we get started with your song list, there's a question I ask every guest, and that's how does music fit into your life? And is it in the foreground or the background of each day?

Howard Feinberg:

Wow. Now, now the secrets will come out. As a young person, I did a lot of activities that most families try to give to their children, whether it's exposure to music, some sports, culture, arts, if possible, and I went to a really tremendous elementary school, which had a fantastic music program. Our parents, I have a sister who's a year older, both of us were encouraged and forget about encouraged, it was a requirement that we learned to play a musical instrument. And our father had this amazing singing voice. So there was clearly a musical ear in the family. Ellen, is my sister, and I both took music very seriously, it was a huge part of our childhood. And frankly, for me, and anything else that I did, music was the one thing that I kind of understood the language and I excelled in. And it became really a cornerstone of my life. I had some really incredible mentors. In addition to the encouragement of parents, we had music playing in the house a lot, when we were growing up different genres, whether it was things like the Limeliters, Americano, or, you know, I would borrow my uncle's swing band music and play that a bit. Ergo, one of my songs for today, it really was an opportunity that I, I never kind of focused on as, as anything special, just something that was really a part of my essence. And quite frankly, there isn't a time in my life where music not only wasn't important, but wasn't really a foundation stone, if you will, I mean, going through life with tunes in your head. Literally, somebody will say something to you, and it'll trigger a song, or a passage of Bach or Beethoven or some some jazz thing that you knew or a rock song or a folk song. My associa... or my memory cues are musical. It's it's just a language that I spoke to. And I was also a decent math student. So there's a lot of neuroscientists that kind of claim that music and math, can they kind of go hand-in-hand? Who knows? But I was lucky enough to have both in my elementary school. And in my junior high school teachers, who were of the highest quality in their music education and how to nurture young kids. When I got to junior high school, it was a school a little bit away from my neighborhood that offered a three-year junior high experience in two years. So I spent two years in his junior high school. And my music teacher was a gentleman by the name of Simeon Loring. He basically saw that I had some talent, and he pushed me to do certain things. This is a guy who said, you know, I got a guy and can play clarinet really good. But he also understands music. That kind of you know, theory and he can learn fast. So he said one day he says to me, he knew that I kind of played a little bit of guitar. So Mr. Loring says to me, I want you to teach the beginning guitar class tomorrow. And I said, I really have never taught. He said, You can do it, you know what you're doing. And you're pretty good on the on the instruments. So just give them the basics, show them the string, show them how to read a little music. So I started doing that. And a couple of months later, he says, You know, I want you to teach a beginning trumpet class. And I, I laughed, I said, that, okay, your guitar is one thing. But I'm a woodwind guy. I mean, I played every, every manner of clarinet that you can play from the smallest E flat to the biggest double bass clarinet, and everything in between. I blew a bugle, but you know, trumpet, three vowels, all this kind of stuff. So Mr. Loring says to me, you, you can teach trumpet because you have a good lip, and you know, music. So all you need to do is take this trumpet and book home, try to practice a little bit. And just remember, all you got to do is be one day ahead of your class. And that was his encouragement. And I did it. Not all that long afterwards, he really encouraged me to audition for the high school and music and art, were people with a certain aptitude and the fine arts and music, in particular, and go and really learn their crafts. And many go on to professions, either directly as performers, or high level artists, or people in the industry, or they just go on for life, but they've had an tremendously intense music experience. And one thing also, though, about music, which I realized, my love of music truly came initially from my parents, and, and their encouragement, and to the extent that my Dad would sing all the time in the house, and, you know, my mom would make sure that we, you know, ended up with cultural events where there was music. But I have three children in their 30s now, when they were growing up, we played a lot of the children's music songs and, and found different ways in which to encourage their interest in music. And of course, you know, in the background there, I'd be playing Elton John, The Who, Jethro Tull, Grateful Dead, you know, Joni Mitchell, whatever it was, it was on always, always on. And often in a car, you know, they would say that music stinks. You know, like young kids, they hate it. And then around about the time, the oldest two boys were about 12-and-a-half, and almost 11, my music CDs that I would be looking for I want to play X, whatever it is, I can't find it. And I look around, and then I go into their bedroom. And lo and behold, I got a stack of CDs that are sitting there all the music that they used to, you know, thumb their nose at, they had begun to, in very serious ways, ingest. One of the best moments of my life relating to music, but really around one of my children was when I had to take a business trip up to the northeast, not all that long before COVID hit. And my son asked me when I was going home, I told him I had a flight on a certain day. He says, Can you extend it a day? And I said, Well, you know, I could look at it, what's going on? He said, Well, how does the Rolling Stones sound to you? And lo and behold, they were playing at Giants Stadium. And that was one one of my favorite groups that I never had a chance to see. So he bought tickets, he would not allow me to pay for the ticket. And, you know, we went to Giants Stadium and just had the time of our lives. And it was such a wonderful event. For me, music is a central part of my life. Both the opportunity to experience playing music in a formal way and informally, but also of being exposed to so many different types of music, and appreciating it all.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Well, it just seems like music has enriched your life so much. And I totally get you about like, the joy of having your children not only like listen to but then actually appreciate and then want to engage with you about music that you like. Thank you for all that history. Parents can tell their child, Hey, I want you to try this or the schools will say you know, in fourth grade, you've got to try this clarinet kind of thing. But then it really it's up to the teachers and people who are around them during the day in an instructional environment to notice that they've got some talent and to then kind of push them because the students not going to... rarely is going to say I'm really good at this trumpet, I want to do this. It's more like the teacher saying you are good at that trumpet and I want you to do it, right? And so what would it be without these teachers, pushing the students or finding students that have a good basis, and then really nudging them in that direction? So shout-out to the teachers there.

Howard Feinberg:

Absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

So Howard, let's get to your song list. The songs you chose were "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller from 1939. "Corner of the Sky" by John Rubinstein from 1972. And "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez from 1975. Howard, I'm eager for us to listen to your songs together and to discuss the significance of each song to you. So let's jump into your first song "In the Mood" by Glenn Miller.

Aaron Gobler.:

Howard, for me, Glenn Miller's music epitomizes the big band sound. And this is probably the first big band song I was aware of as a child. So what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Howard Feinberg:

That's very funny, you should say that, because I could tell you exactly the same thing. It's I listened to so much, but that opening refrain, with the saxes coming up first slow and then and I should say low and then building up. (Mimicking horns) That that is a signature of this song. But of that era, because it leads into what I consider one of the coolest swing songs that ever came out of the era. And and, you know, I could close my eyes. And I could imagine and I picked it as a film someplace where you got Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney doing a dance that is one of their, you know, shows that they put on, it's that kind of energy, the excitement, the you know, the build-up and the horns come in? And yes, it is, it is one of those, if you are at all in touch with the music of the era, and again, it's, you know, you got to remember what was happening there, Tommy Dorsey had all these different people who were playing with, I guess, old instruments, but new sound, and they were coming up with ways to be innovative and creative, and to create an energy. And to me that whole energy was, in a lot of ways, what was happening socially in the country. And, and frankly, if you think about the times between World War I, World War II, to the Depression, and all this kind of stuff, what was it that if anything kept people going was, you know, helping each other in the culture and having some way to kind of just decompress, and music like that, I think provided in a lot of ways the background for people to take a deep breath and smile again, you know, it was, it was I could define it so many ways. And, you know, think about it also, given the time. It was a lot of these musicians of that era that did a lot of the USO trips to visit troops and spend time, you know, entertaining people that were defending our democracy, and frankly, the world overseas. And the tragedy for Glenn Miller was that on one of those such trips, he perished over the English Channel, never to be found again. You know, it was in service to the country, he had joined the military, and he had gone into the entertainment side and was entertaining troops. It was really so sad. And I and my uncles who were, you know, clearly, you know, they lived through all that. They remembered it. They told me the story, because as I was falling in love with the music, and I said, Where can I hear him? And he said, unfortunately, you can't, not live, but listen to the records. It's just as good. But it sent me on a course because I, I, I loved that energy. And that's where I got the, I guess, the desire to not just go to the orchestra practice in elementary school, but I come in the room a little earlier, maybe two or three, there was a guy who was an amazing piano player. And so, you know, a few of us were just, you know, whatever the song was, you know, we grabbed something and just stopped playing. And you know, I wasn't particularly great at improvising at that age. But you know, the guy had a piano was so, boy, did we have fun, and then then the teacher would walk in and say, Okay, time to get serious. You know? That was the kind of stuff that appealed to us.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm-mmm. So Howard the next song on your list is "Corner of the Sky" by Jon Rubinstein. And that's from the show "Pippin". So let's give that a listen, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Howard, I'd heard of the show "Pippin", but I really didn't know much about it until exploring it this week. And apparently, there's a song in the show called "Prayer for a Duck". Now, I think I need to sit down and listen to the whole soundtrack. So like, what made you choose this particular tune

Howard Feinberg:

The song basically is the cornerstone, the beginning of a saga of Pippin, the son of Charlemagne, and he is the son that wasn't the warrior like his father. He was the cultured kind of wayward, I got to go out and find myself kind of guy and the adventures of him as he tries to impress his father that yeah, he could become a warrior. It's one to include in your list? of those songs that absolutely for me, at the time, I heard it the first time it kind of captured where I was in life. And, you know, like I say, music is my life. And I could either say, there was something in my life that's defined by music or music can define my life, and who knows which it is. But I saw that show in summer of 1975. It was before right before my senior year of college, and I kind of wasn't 100% sure what the future was gonna hold. I had all sorts of ideas and was playing with would I go to social work school, (unintelligible) school, would I keep in the anthropology program, I applied to the Ph.D. program, I got in, should I go? You know, and all this crazy stuff going on in my head and there I hear Pippin, who's trying to figure out what he's doing, he's looking for meaning he's gonna go out there and try

Aaron Gobler:

I said this before in the show that, that we often to find it. have this thought in our mind that we are the only ones who are experiencing something and that when we see in, in various types of art, usually like in a poem, or in a song, someone expressing the same situation, the same challenges, the same curiosities and such, it can make a real impression. In this case, it sounds like you know, like you were saying, Your life was kind of in this weird, like quasi-state, and you're not sure what's going on. And so that the song, and the show kind of really resonated with you.

Howard Feinberg:

Totally, often art in all of its forms and performing arts, there are opportunities that humanize experiences and universalize them. Like you just said, in a sense, it's very clear that when a show like this that has such an impact, you wonder why the longevity, why certain shows continue to be remade, done at college campuses or in community theater. And this is one that you'll see often. And I think it's because it at any age, it can resonate with the audience, people in the audience, and they can see pieces of themselves while they're being very seriously and enjoyably entertained. It's truly a wonderful musical.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head with this with shows like "Pippin", and like you're saying it's timeless. The musicality of it may be a little dated here or there. But but the the purpose of the show, the thread of it is still is still very, still timeless. So Howard, let's listen to your last song "Diamonds and Rust" by Joan Baez.

Aaron Gobler.:

Howard, is it true this song is about Bob Dylan? You know, I hadn't heard this song before. But I got busy learning more about it from Wikipedia this week. I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list.

Howard Feinberg:

So the first question you asked was, was it

Aaron Gobler:

From what I gathered from what you said then about Dylan? And you know, if you do the research, like you said, you did, you'll see that the references and and all within the song could apply to nobody else but Dylan, and the relationship that they had had about a decade before the song was written. But why did I choose this? Well, first of all, think about the times. If you grew up in the late 60s to the mid 70s, really coming of age and you're in college in the listening to just this particular genre or early 70s. And you get you get a sense of what's happening in the world through the folk music and the protest songs and the social justice songs and, and music was a vehicle for expressing deep and passionate emotions, about society about the state of the world and, and not the least of which were the singer songwriters of the 60s and 70s, who created this unbelievable repertoire of music that stands the test of time. And you could contemporary, you know, Dylan, Baez, and The Band, etc, that really you can go back to so many of those songs, and literally close your eyes and relive history through the music in a lot of ways. When I saw the Rolling Thunder Revue, which some of your listeners may not know, was a sort of a traveling group, a troubadours that Dylan had basically put together. People liked The Band, and I think Joni Mitchell popped in and out of it. Clearly, Joan Baez was in and out, Robbie Robertson from The Band. Dylan, of course, was the centerpiece. And I had the pleasure of seeing him seeing the Rolling Thunder Revue in Brandeis University when my sister was in college, lyrically, they've captured so much of what was going on, I so our senior year in their gymnasium, and boy, was that a wonderful show, but it was it was the era that we were growing up in, you know, we live through the end of the Vietnam War in our formative years, we really saw the ugliness of what politics could be, and the Watergate scandal and how that broke and how it forced the president to resign and all that followed subsequently. So the music of the era, again, you know, like, like anything it touches very deep and specific songs can bring that out. So I looked at, and I think most people would admit that the while there are so many major mean, even thinking about like Creedence Clearwater and others, influences on music in general in those days, The Beatles, obviously The Stones, James Taylor and sister Kate Taylor, and you know, Joan Baez, Emmylou Harris, you know, you go up and down the list, Carole King, these people spoke to your hearts, they spoke about social situation, they spoke politics, they talked about psychosocial issues in on a personal level. And they they dealt in reality. And in this song, in particular, it joined both the themes, both in terms of what music represented or can represent, but also the deeply personal interaction between two of my favorite artists of the day, I absolutely adored Joan Baez, both for the music she covered right, that they that they input into song, some really intense on other people's repertoires and her own and her music that was copied still by others. And of course, Dylan who just defied... he defies definition, electric, acoustic, initial Dylan, later days collaborations with so many different... Dylan & the Dead, Dylan and the Band, Dylan, just and and so their personal interaction. And then again, I went to high school in Manhattan, I grew up in New York City, Greenwich Village, for many years was my place to play. You know, Greenwich Village, Chinatown, Little Italy. Those were the neighborhoods that I spent an awful lot of time and in my, you know, later High experiences that were going on, in this particular time, you School and throughout my college and early young adulthood before I left New York. So when she talks about looking out of that window in the Washington Square, I'm right there. I see the window. I know the house. You know, it's I know, I know. At one point in time, I actually knew the apartment that they lived in the apartment building, you know, and those kinds of things. So it's, it's visceral, it brings me back to a time again, in formative years. know, 60s into the 70s.

Howard Feinberg:

Yeah, you know, when when I had to try and figure out which songs to choose to propose to you that might go on an interview. I mean, there's just so many. I mean, think about the "Four Dead in Ohio", Crosby, Stills and Nash. Right? Kent State I mean, is Woodstock. You know, there's just so much that happened in the late 60s through the 70s, early-mid 70s. Music tells a story, and in certain respects music helped change it.

Aaron Gobler:

That's yeah. Yeah, that can be a whole other conversation. Yeah, yeah. Well, well, thank you for your observations. And and I actually hadn't considered really, that not too many generations or eras have been documented in the same way through through lyrics, like, you know, mid 60s to the mid 70s. So rich in social activism. Yeah, that's it's a very interesting, like history book, through song during that particular era.

Howard Feinberg:

And you think about civil rights, and the songs that came from the movement. And yet the songs can be like what people were actually experiencing as much as it exposed and spoke to the heart. It also showed how far we needed to come in order to make our world a little bit better place. And we're still working hard at that. And I don't think that's going to ever stop.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Now, Howard, I know you wanted to make a shout-out to a particular social support group for blues musicians.

Howard Feinberg:

So after Hurricane Katrina, there was several groups that coalesced around the group of musicians and other artists that were displaced along in New Orleans itself. And along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And several organizations, there was a blues venue in New Orleans called Tipitina's that set up a foundation. But I have a very close colleague and friend named Barbara Hammerman and this is a shout-out to Barbara, who was part of this foundation that helped provide social services, legal advice, medical care for blues traveling musicians, when they were in remote locations, and they didn't have any kind of coverage. If they had an emergency, they needed a dentist, they did whatever. That kind of blossomed into a love and a passion that her daughter, first as a photographer of music, and then really as a music promoter created an organization called United by Music North America. It's based in the Pacific Northwest. And they, amongst other things, promote local and regional and some national blues artists, some that are early in their career and others that are real established. And they promote concerts, they also deal with social service issues at a certain level. Unlike many others, it's done without any fanfare, other than the fact that it's a celebration of music. And if you ever get a chance to see them online or at any of their venues when they're playing on the East Coast, when they they're at a blues festival on the East Coast or in the Pacific Northwest. Well worth checking into, again, that's run by Amanda Gresham. And her mom Barbara Hammerman, very much a pivotal part of that. And, and father, Raymond Levine, really great people, and great supporters of me as well.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for sharing that. It's really rewarding to hear about support networks, and in any kind of situation, just knowing that people have your back. Well, I want to thank you, Howard, I had a great time talking with you and learned some stuff today, experienced some songs I hadn't heard, and took some walks down memory lane. You know, I hope you enjoyed yourself too.

Howard Feinberg:

Well, Aaron, first of all, I was a little intimidated as the interview approached. Just because I truly didn't know if I could even articulate some of the some of the feeling and passion behind the choices I made and why and I hope that this served to be a useful interview for others who hear it and who might want to check out the music as a result. And I thank you again for the opportunity.

Aaron Gobler:

And thank you for taking the time to put the list together. I know it's difficult sometimes to pick three songs, and I certainly appreciate you curating that list and providing it to me and again, taking the time today to talk. I do want to say to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on to My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for the mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 60 : My Three Songs with Jonathan Dichter

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 60. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Jonathan Dichter. By his own admission, John is a not-yet-famous musician, a concert piano tuner for the ridiculously famous ... and for everybody else who owns a piano, a music educator with Socratic intentions, a regular guy who marvels at the wisdom of nature, a father, a son, a brother and uncle, a lover, a friend, a past neighbor of the Gobler family and a perpetual student of the School of Beginner's Mind. Welcome to the show, Jon. How are you today?

Jon Dichter:

I'm feeling great, Aaron.

Aaron Gobler:

That's great. I want to thank you for taking the time to be on the show. I'm really, really delighted to have you as a guest. And I'm sure we're going to be sharing some great stories.

Jon Dichter:

I'm looking forward to this.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. So Jon, as you mentioned in your bio, you were one of my past neighbors from Philadelphia, and we grew up literally across the street from each other. And our parents were good friends. I'm especially delighted to have you as a guest because a significant part of my music-loving history is connected to your family. And I also have some stories about your siblings and your parents, and your dog too.

Jon Dichter:

Okay, let's go for it.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, so Jon, what inspired you to be a guest on the show?

Jon Dichter:

Well, um, you, number one, Aaron Gobler. And the fact that I was kind of perusing posts that you had made, and I knew of your show. But then when Christine Lavin came on, and I really admire her, I thought, wow, this is this is for real. He's interviewing a real musician who I, who I respect. Boy, I wonder if I could be on this show. And you were very, very happy to have me on. So here we are.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. It's like "Horton Hears a Who", right? All the people in Whoville are all saying "we're here, we're here" and then all of a sudden one voice breaks through.

Jon Dichter:

Or more like Horton Hears THE Who.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. (Laughter) Well, I'm so glad that, that that broke through and that you decided to be on because if I had to look back at my music history, and how I was introduced to music, or how I began listening to music, I would have to say it was through, primarily my mother, but she was also influenced by the Dichter family. And we had some music in our house that came from across the street, including one thing I recall was a reel-to-reel tape of Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles. And I don't know how it was transferred onto a reel-to-reel but my Dad had a Toshiba reel-to-reel recorder. And all I knew is when I was very little kid that we had this reel-to-reel tape of Magical Mystery Tour. I believe that's the album has "The Fool on the Hill". And so I just played that over and over again. And I did have a little radio station in my basement, in the basement that was wired directly up to a speaker in the kitchen. And, and I do remember just including that as one of the songs that I would play. And that's just one story of how music from the Dichter family influenced the Goblers and me. And just as a side note, you had your family had a dog named Woody, right? And named after, named after Woody Guthrie?

Jon Dichter:

Woody Guthrie, we were going to name the dog Arlo. And you know, because it was a golden retriever we knew he was a golden retriever and we just thought Woody the golden retriever. Arlo didn't really fly, but Woody did. Not literally fly, but the name, the name stuck.

Aaron Gobler:

There was a firehouse, a volunteer firehouse...

Jon Dichter:

Oh wow.

Aaron Gobler:

I don't know about three blocks away or something and whenever the fire siren will go off--

Jon Dichter:

Wait, can I can I continue? I know where you're going with this. But I haven't had this thought for about 40 years. But yeah, you you just brought this memory back and into my consciousness. The fire, that firehouse was on Manoa Road. The alarm would go off and Woody would sing. I guess that was the beginning of my music career. My dog taught me how to sing.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, in perfect harmony with the volunteer fire siren that would emanate from the firehouse.

Jon Dichter:

You're right. Yeah, yeah. Fascinating. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Perfect harmony. And just as an aside, I have a relative who's like a genealogist. And she believes that I'm related to Arlo Guthrie.

Jon Dichter:

Huh. How's that... how does that work?

Aaron Gobler:

Well, so Woody Guthrie, I believe, had three different wives over his life. And one of them...

Jon Dichter:

Let me take a guess, Marjorie?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I believe it's Marjorie. And well that's Arlo's mom. So I believe through her that I'm related to him. So I just throw that in there. So there's some connection there that Arlo Guthrie, Woody Guthrie and your dog.

Jon Dichter:

Two degrees of separation.

Aaron Gobler:

Exactly, through a dog. And then I wanted to also mention that your your older sister, Barbara, taught me how to tie my shoes. I was eight years old, which is rather late to learn how to tie your shoes. And perhaps my parents had failed at it. But she had some magic way to teach me and after she showed me I was I never had to, like NOT know how to tie my shoes.

Jon Dichter:

Well, she's still tying shoes to this day.

Aaron Gobler:

Good, okay.

Jon Dichter:

She's alive and well and tying her shoes.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Hopefully she'll hear this this interview. And she will maybe remember, remember that maybe that was a poignant thing for her to, to teach an eight year-old how to tie their shoes.

Jon Dichter:

Well, I like how you're tying this all into the show. That's wonderful.

Aaron Gobler:

So that's, so those are just some of the stories. So John, before we get started with your song list, there's a question I ask every guest and that is, how does music fit into your life? Like is it in the foreground or the background of each day? But I'm gonna guess for you, it's always in the foreground. Can you give me an idea of the average week or month for you in regards to your piano tuning, performing and teaching?

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, so it really depends on the season. Things are going to start picking up in the fall, in the summer things a little slower. Every pandemic that comes along things slow down a little. This one in particular, the one in 1918, you know, things things were slow as well, but this one really was a real kicker. But things are coming back for musicians through the pandemic. My partner in rhyme and my lover through time Daphne, the beautiful holistic integrative doctor turned music producer and engineer, we set up a home studio to continue our one people band project, which features members from Paul Simon's band, Jamie Haddad and Biodun Kuti and Bakithi Kumalo and even members from Lady Smith Black Mambazo. Okay, Joe Laurie from Sting's band, and also Eric Wertham from Adele's music director and piano player, and Eric Bazilian from The Hooters and we just continued our body of music to, you know, bring to the world, the joys of music and the message of being kind to people through music, and we're very excited about its release.

Aaron Gobler:

That's marvelous. And what about your piano tuning work?

Jon Dichter:

The tuning subsided during the pandemic as well, and it started picking up when a company, Cunningham Piano Company called me to kind of get back into the game of tuning, and things started picking up and then there were concerts again, so a typical week or day, in terms of music and tuning, I would say that I'm always thinking about music, but in terms of economics, maybe about one-half tuning, and then the

Aaron Gobler:

What exactly are you teaching? other half, one-quarter, one-quarter teaching, and writing music or performing music. And sometimes that shifts where it's half music, but I'm always thinking about music. I'm always writing music, I'm always thinking about a piece and anything from Bach "Prelude" to Gypsy Swing things, compositions I'll be recording this Sunday as early as Sunday to a gig that I have this weekend. So something's always in my mind. Things I'm thinking for my students, what they want to do. So I always have to be a couple steps ahead of my great great, great students. So I have a lot of work to do. You know, is it Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" solo. Yeah, I better get that down before Thursday, because Andrew is going to kick my butt, that sort of thing.

Jon Dichter:

I teach primarily guitar, some piano some voice some musicianship. And I would say that I look at myself more as a coach than a teacher. Even though I get paid as a teacher. I'm affiliated with some other schools in the Lower Merion area. So because of the access of music through YouTube and streaming kids can really, really teach themselves these days. But what they really need as a coach someone to say, yeah, there's, there's 20 versions of Vasa Dorado but listen to a version done by Schmitt, you know, and, and so so they can really gauge for themselves what they want to do and it gives me a kind of a track, I get into their track of what they're doing. And we kind of read each other's minds in terms of where they're going musically. And my best students are my best teachers for myself, by the way.

Aaron Gobler:

And so the general age of the students is?

Jon Dichter:

I have an eight year-old student now who's a wonderful singer. I mean, she's, she's kind of a sponge, she's great. And my oldest student, he's retired radiologist, and he's probably pushing... he's in his late 70s right now. And his mother was a concert pianist. And he insisted on taking piano lessons with me. And I, I'm not a concert pianist, so he's learning music for more more of a theoretical perspective, which, which is great, which is my wheelhouse.

Aaron Gobler:

And you said the word musicianship. That's something you teach. Can you define that?

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, I mean, you know, you remember 11th grade, you remember the SATs? Ooh, the SATs Scholastic Aptitude Test? Well, yeah. You know, for me, the SATs are style, attitude, and technique. You know, the "T" part is technique that scales and arpeggios and theory and everything that is the language of music. The "S" style is really you know, from Rock-and-Roll to Blues to Jazz ... really subcategories. What kind of Blues is a Country Blues? Is it City Blues, you know, it's more like Blind Lemon Jefferson, or Eric Clapton Blues? And an attitude is really something you cannot teach. And that is a certain je ne sais quoi, that thing where, you know, someone says, Man, I gotta learn this song, or, Hey, this song makes me feel like this. And you kind of reinforce that. That's great. Go for it. And so that's it. Musicianship for me is the SATs style, attitude and technique.

Aaron Gobler:

That's great. I like the way you framed that. One of the first things that jumped out to me seeing you on Facebook over these years is the tuning that you've done the piano tuning done for famous people, can you just give me a quick story about like, either the like, the first time you were asked to do this for somebody famous, or one of the most poignant or significant times that you did this?

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, well, um, recently, you know, was connected with Live Nation. And Live Nation is an organization

Aaron Gobler:

Wow. And people don't think about that they that puts on major concerts all throughout the country, I got what they say I got the call. And in the Philadelphia area, I started tuning for very, very big names. Once that happened, it was like a snowball effect. And I liked it. It kind of brought me out of homes, out of the shop, where I was doing a lot of rebuilding. At one point in my life, I was rebuilding pianos. And then then I got into general tuning. But then I morphed into becoming a concert tuner which for 30 some years I had not even thought about doing it. It's like someone else does think about maybe someone picking up their guitar ready to that type of work. It wasn't a lofty dream, like someday I'm going to tune for Bruce Springsteen. It just one day, I got the call. And then from there was The Eagles. And from there, it was Jack Johnson. And like, on and on, and on and on. It was like, Oh, holy, this is this is really a lot of fun. I get to talk to these people. And they need me as much as I need them. Stevie Wonder, I mean, just wonderful people. And they're just people. They're just musicians who want their instruments in the best shape they can. They can be. The play it and they see them tuning it you know, before they're Pope, you know, Aretha Franklin playing for the Pope, that sort of thing. It's just a divine thing. Is this what what is happening? What is happening, Jon? I think that the novelty about to play it, but you don't see a piano. You know, you don't kind of wore off, like at first, like, wow, look what I'm doing? Now it's, it's like, just shut up and do your job. Because there's really no, no room for slack. There's no room for getting a 98, you have to be 100 every time you know, like, one little one little nuance of a string is off. Like when I tuned for Chick Corea oh my god, it started raining and it was outside and he heard it. And he kept playing that one note that one note that one note that one note. And I'm thinking, Oh, he doesn't hear that. And I'm thinking, of course he does, he's Chick Corea. And the next day, my dad calling up and calling me up saying if you're in trouble, I can help you out. The Inquirer had talked about this concert. How because of the rain the note, there was a note that went out of tune and I'm thinking oh my God, my career is over and then it said, But then the tuner came to save the day. But it did not mention my name but nevertheless, it was a really really great feeling. It was a tough it was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. Yeah. see Billy Joel open up his piano and tune it before he's ready to play it.

Jon Dichter:

No, it a behind-the-scenes type of activity and large venues there are guitar techs as well. So there's always even though the musician is tuning their guitar, there's someone who hands them a tuned the guitar pretty much.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Sometimes it's just a good way of segueing between songs as they sit there and mess with the keys on is that what you call? What do you call the the knobs on a?

Jon Dichter:

The tuning, the tuning machines?

Aaron Gobler:

Tuning machines?

Jon Dichter:

Or tuners? Yeah, they're not they're not really tuning there. Right. Right. There's stalling for time. The piano, the guitars are already tuned for them. You're so used to playing in so many clubs early in their career. They're tuning it and it doesn't need it. That's right.

Aaron Gobler:

Right. Right. Right. I hear you. That's great. I'm eager for us to listen to the songs together So Jon, let's jump into your list of songs. The songs you and to discuss the significance of each of the songs with you. chose were "I'm Five" by Danny Kaye from 1958, "Maybe I'm So let's jump into your first song, "I'm Five" by Danny Kaye. Amazed" by Paul McCartney from 1970 and "Minor Swing" by Django Reinhardt from 1937.

Aaron Gobler.:

Jon, I vaguely remember hearing this song when I was younger. And I certainly remember other Danny Kaye songs like "Inchworm". And, and he was he was such a talented entertainer. What inspired you to include this song on your list?

Jon Dichter:

Okay, so the album is called "Mommy, Give Me a Drink of Water". And it came out the year I was born in 1958. And I first heard it in 1963 when I was five. So I thought and I'm looking at the album right now. He actually didn't write the music. It was Milton Shafer, who wrote the lyrics and music and orchestration was by Gordon Jenkins. And I'll get to that in a second. But I thought at five, this was sort of my blueprint for my life. The songs were brilliant, he sang them beautifully. The orchestration was just, I didn't even know what orchestration was. But when I was hearing all these instruments and the modulations, I thought, this is the best thing I've ever heard. I guess this is my DNA, I guess this is like, who I am. And every single song, there's a song here called "Crazy Barbara". And my sister's name is Barbara. So I thought that this album was, you know, in kind of a self-referential way, I thought this was actually some some divine gift that was bestowed upon me. And then, you know, I listened to it over and over again. And I just have to finish the story here. And then the album was gone. And for 30 years, I didn't know where this album was. And it turns out that it was in the Gobler house. You had the album in your collection. And I think it was your mom, I think Mina said, you know, because I was living on Dorset Lane at the time, I think we have something of yours. And when I looked at it, I'm thinking it's not something of me, it IS me. You have my DNA. And I was happy to see it again. I was reunited with a voice from the ether, you know, Danny Kaye.

Aaron Gobler:

That's marvelous.

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, true story.

Aaron Gobler:

And so it's now in your possession and it's not going to leave your possession.

Jon Dichter:

I'm holding it now.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Jon Dichter:

I'm never gonna let it go.

Aaron Gobler:

Carry it around with you. That's a wonderful story that I'm sorry, in retrospect that you had to live so many years without it.

Jon Dichter:

You know, they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. And with music, the great thing about it is it always comes around again, if it hits you on a certain level. It never goes away. You know, it's, you know, people's with, with people with Alzheimer's disease, they remember how to play a piece of music they played 80 years ago. I mean, it's just remarkable that what the memory, you know, strengths that music has, it's a beautiful thing.

Aaron Gobler:

It is. Yeah, it is pretty incredible how, how our brains can recall that so easily.

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

For all those years. Yeah.

Jon Dichter:

By the way, the orchestration was done by Gordon Jenkins. And I was so fascinated by it, a couple years ago I, I tried to get in touch with him. And it turns out that he passed away. But I was in touch with his son, who was a sports, a sports writer in California. And we had we had a wonderful email exchange about his father. So that was, that was great. Milton Schaefer just passed away, and I regret not being in touch with him. He's the lyricist in music to this album of Danny Kaye.

Aaron Gobler:

So everybody, pretty much the key people in this recording have all passed on. But you can still put that on the record player as you experience it again.

Jon Dichter:

Yeah. Gordon Jenkins did a lot of orchestration for for Frank Sinatra. He was Sinatra's favorite orchestrator.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you for for that story. And, and that little walk down memory lane there. I am delighted that you have that. I think maybe one of those glass album frame things that you you know, put it on your study there. So the Goblers can't take it.

Jon Dichter:

One of ours, again, it's yours. You know, I've internalized this, okay. Like Danny Kaye, by the way, Danny Kaye could not read or write a note of music, but he can he could conduct an orchestra because of his memory. He was a genius. absolute genius. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah. Really, really remarkable, man. Yeah. So Jon, the next song on your list is "Maybe I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney. So let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

So Jon, who's this Paul McCartney I keep hearing about?

Jon Dichter:

Well, you know, prior to the group Wings, this guy was in a band. (Laughter) But you know, this is all Paul, a lot of people don't know this. That song, he's playing every instrument. Every instrument. He's playing the drums, he's playing the bass, he's playing several guitars, he's playing several keyboards. He's singing, of course. He wrote it. He engineered it on a four-track, I believe. I mean, it's just a work of art. I noticed I didn't include The Beatles, because every single Beatles song, you know, I could talk about it could be a whole radio show about each Beatle song. But this one kind of epitomizes Paul, it really just puts him kind of heads above all the Beatles. Not to say that he was the best. I'm just saying that he really had it together on so many levels, many, many, many levels.

Aaron Gobler:

I saw the "Get Back" documentary, and totally eye-opening in terms of lots of misconceptions or preconceptions I had about The Beatles. And it just struck me about how he really was I see the glue to the band.

Jon Dichter:

He was the leader. Every band needs a leader. Paul was the leader.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah, I'm just thinking through my life prior to seeing that documentary. I just saw him and Lennon as kind of this power team. But through that, it seemed like he was the one who, who just was the calmer voice and the more chill, you know, but yeah, he was the leader. I guess if you look at it that way.

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, their personalities were so different. John and Paul, I mean, John was was, you know, almost like a revolutionary. Paul was like, let's please the people, and like that it can't be more extreme. While they're in the early Beatles stage, they respect each other very, very much. Their personalities started to kind of to kind of separate as they got older, but they were kind of united in the fact that they, they both had lost their moms when they were young. And that was one of the like an impetus for them to be together and to write these beautiful songs. They understood what loss of love was, they were just very, very different personalities. And it got ugly at some points. This album, "McCartney", where "Maybe I'm Amazed" this feature actually was released before "Let It Be". And that really caused a rift. You know, it was like the Beatles weren't even broken up. But he comes out with this. This album that just to a Beatles fans is arguably one of the best but it's not a Beatles album. It's Paul McCartney songs, Paul McCartney album.

Aaron Gobler:

And the fact that it was such a powerhouse of an album and like this performance in the song and such, I guess can make you feel like maybe The Beatles could just be Paul McCartney.

Jon Dichter:

Well, that was the beauty of The Beatles. They in the beginning they appeared as one, like The Rolling Stones called them the "four-headed monster". I think that was the Rolling Stones referred to them because wherever they went, they went together, but they were not as they got older. And by the way, this song came out he Paul was only 28 years old. This was 1970 so he was still really young, but they had 12 years, 12 or 13 years of working on their craft before this, so by the time they're 28, it's like, Hey, I got this down. I got this formula down.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's pretty incredible for that age. So, but McCartney is still around, as long as you believe that he is actually Paul McCartney, and not Billy Shears, or some other imposter. You know, right?

Jon Dichter:

Well, if he's Billy Shears, Billy Shears is pretty talented. I don't care what he calls himself. That's a tough song to sing because he hits a high F that ... like no male, unless they're a castrati can hit and he hit it. I mean, he's just like, way above the stratosphere and he nails it. And it's like, you can't do it. You just like a normal person cannot sing that. It's just like, forget about it.

Aaron Gobler:

That's, that's one of the fascinating things about the non-musician listening to music is that, I guess it could be with any particular art, when someone can do it really, really well, we don't, as a layperson, really grasp the artistry, right? I saw Eric Clapton in concert at The Spectrum. And it's the first time I've actually heard an instrument sing like a person. And he makes it look so so easy. But he is was just a virtuoso at it. But it just makes it looks like it's effortless.

Jon Dichter:

Yeah, I mean, in the late 60s, there were billboards in England that said, "Clapton is God". And he was only he was in his 20s. So it's the amount, you know, it's obviously it's the natural talent that they have. But the work, the work ethic is so not even understood, people sometimes have an image of a musician. Oh, you know, they have that laid back lifestyle, and they, you know, it's so easy for them. Are you kidding me, like a real musician, like the amount of a talent and the work, because if you're talented, and you just go by that, someone's gonna come along and take it away, and then they're gonna be on the top. So if you're talented, it's hard. You know?

Aaron Gobler:

You really have to just admire just all that, like you're saying all that hard work built on top of their base skill. Is there anything else you want to add?

Jon Dichter:

So in the very early 60s, before The Beatles came on to the Ed Sullivan Show, I heard of a phenomenon called the "British invasion". And I thought literally, it was an invasion, a war, because I had seen my two older sisters. And they, the way they reacted to The Beatles, was like mass hysteria. And I witnessed this as a little kid as a five year old. There's a number again, five. So I witnessed this British Invasion that was about to happen when they appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, in 1964. I remember being in front of the television set, with my parents and my sisters about see the show, and blocking the TV, because I didn't want this invasion to affect my sisters in a way that somehow this energy would infect young teenage girls as my sisters were, and spawn a whole generation of hysteric people. That's what I thought the British Invasion was like just, and it was in a way, but I wanted to stop that. So I actually got in front of the TV. And as soon as I heard the first note of "Twists and Shout", I believe, I just I was infected myself. It was like, oh, it's all over. I love this stuff. And then I became a fan. And what I hear after the show, thousands and thousands and thousands of bands were formed the next day all throughout the world.

Aaron Gobler:

Incredible. Yeah. Oh, that's a great story. I'd never actually thought about someone taking it literally, a five year-old easily, right, takes a lot of things literally.

Jon Dichter:

Yeah. Yeah, that's what I did.

Aaron Gobler:

That's a great story. Thank you. Thanks. Jon,

Aaron Gobler.:

Jon, thanks so much for sharing this song. I the last on your list is "Minor Swing" by Django Reinhardt and it's featuring Stéphane Grappelli, and the Quintet of really got a kick out of it. I'm not well learned on 1930s music the Hot Club of France. you know, this tune will include some virtuoso guitar and other stringed instrument playing. I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Jon Dichter:

Django Reinhardt was he was kind of a genius, freak of nature. Really. I mean, you know, it starts with the liner notes. I'll just read this. It's amazing. "On January 23, 1910, a boy was born to a family of nomadic gypsies camped in a field outside the village of (unintelligible) in Belgium. By the time of his death 42 years later, that boy Jean Reinhardt had become the world famous Django, the greatest of jazz guitarists, loved and respected by musicians and music lovers of all ages, and all tastes." Now, Django Reinhardt, by the time he was 18 years-old, was a pretty, pretty known guitarist, and pretty well well respected in France, actually the outside of the outskirts of Paris, where the Gypsy caravans would set and he was married at the time. And actually, his wife had a child. And he was coming home to his encampment. And he is, he lit up, he lit a candle. And the whole a caravan went up in a mass blaze because his wife, her job was to make celluloid flowers for funerals and weddings. And he was clutching a blanket or something. And the pinky and the ring finger were fused together to his hand. So what you're hearing is the world's greatest guitar player, arguably the world's greatest guitar player ever, with only two fingers on his left hand, including his thumb. So right there, it's a remarkable story. But the music that he invented, I would say, is just going on and on and on and loved by by many.

Aaron Gobler:

Wow, that's quite a story. So are you saying that his guitar playing is even more... is it more fun, it's more, it's even more fantastic because of his impediment, or impairment?

Jon Dichter:

Well, what happened was, he had to relearn the instrument, I wouldn't say a blessing in disguise, but he had to relearn the guitar only using two fingers. So he had to develop an incredible speed. That was in some ways faster than someone using all five fingers or all four finger, arguably four fingers on the left hand. So he had to do it. And it took them a little bit of time. I know he was in the hospital for a while. They were gonna, the doctors were going to amputate his leg from the fire. And his Gypsy family just kidnapped him and took him out of the hospital. And the rest is history. He went on to record extensively. He toured but not that much. He was in France, mostly. And during the war, he lost touch with Stéphane Grappelli, his his compatriot on violin. And because the communication was the way it was back in '42, they couldn't find each other. And so they were playing throughout the war separately. And then they found each other and started recording again after the war.

Aaron Gobler:

And the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. Is that his own? Is that part of his own band, per se, or did he just perform with them?

Jon Dichter:

No, that's the name of the band, the name of the band is the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. That's what, there was no place called "The Hot Club". It was actually the name of the band. Okay, so it was five of them. Always three guitars, one violin and string bass. And the reason there were three guitars is because when Stephane Grappelli played the violin, he had two guitars behind him. And then Django said, Well, I want another guitar player. I want two guitars behind me when I solo. So he employed his brother. And there was always a second guitar player besides Django. So that's why it was a quintet. That's why it was a Quintet of the Hot Club of France.

Aaron Gobler:

And then how did you hear about all this?

Jon Dichter:

Well, when I was 20 years old, I befriended a luthier, guitar maker and banjo player named John Zeidler. We were good friends. And we played in a band together, we were playing bluegrass music, it's the music that I could identify with, I could play and John Zeidler was was a gifted luthier and, and musician. And he always had kind of a word to say to me, you know, like as, as the older you know, we're the same age but like he was always like, older than me, and many, many light years ahead. He would say, if you think you're such a hot guitar player try to play what Django is doing. And that's when my studies began. I heard Django Reinhardt play, and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to play guitar, and I wanted to do it professionally. And I knew if I had to do it, if I was going to do it, I had to study. And unfortunately, there was nobody in this area that played that way. There were people teaching jazz and technique and classical. And I studied with pretty much all of those guitar players in Philadelphia. I really wanted to get to the sounds myself. So I was very lucky later on in my career, to team up with people like Stephane Wrembel and Kruno Spisic and Alfonso Ponticelli, the top Gypsy style guitar players and I actually worked with all those guys accompanying them. And now I'm back in the saddle again, trying to get a band together with similar type of musicians.

Aaron Gobler:

So it really seems like this was a significant part of your music history.

Jon Dichter:

Very much so. Yeah. It was a turning, it was a turning point. It was a turning point from going, Hey, I'm going to play I'm going to strum a little guitar and play a little bit of music and, you know, sing in the clubs to Hey, there's a certain standard here that I have to go for. And it's pretty high. Am I gonna go for it? And it's like, how can I wake up every single morning and think anything but "I gotta get my act together".

Aaron Gobler:

Quite an inspiration. Is there anything else you'd like to share about that song?

Jon Dichter:

There's only three chords in the song. I mean, it's remarkable what can be done in the scheme of three chords, but then you think about the blues and it's only three chords. So for you budding singer songwriters out there who are writing complex things. My suggestion to you is to write a three chord song and your road to fame and glory is right around the corner. Simple is better.

Aaron Gobler:

Just do it do a good job of simple. It doesn't have to be a mediocre job of complex, right?

Jon Dichter:

You will do a great job simple.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, there you go. That's that's good advice. Right. Thank you. Jon, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections like things you may have thought of while we were listening to the songs or answers to questions I didn't ask you?

Jon Dichter:

All I can say is that it was hard to narrow it down to these three songs. There's just there's just so many things out there that can be mentioned. I was thinking for you Aaron, you know you have a career in a spin off of this show, you can have you know songs from the early Bible called "My Three Psalms".

Aaron Gobler:

(Laughter) There you go. Maybe I'll pepper the lineup with something like that, for better or for verse. Well, I want to thank you again, Jon. I'm so delighted that we eventually got to talk on the show. And it was just wonderful going down memory lane. And you know, I know there's so many songs one can choose but these three songs and how you describe them and how important they were to your life. You know, that comes through. And so I do appreciate you making this list and taking the time today. I had a great time. I hope you enjoyed yourself, too.

Jon Dichter:

Aaron, I had a blast. And by the way "memory lane" was Dorset Lane. And it's great that our pasts have come together to this present right now and continue to listen to great music and continue with the show. The premise is wonderful. And I hope it grows to something greater and greater, greater. You've got a great idea.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you so much.

Jon Dichter:

Okay, take care. Say hello to the family.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, and to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 59 : My Three Songs with Steve Johgart

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 59. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Steve Johgart. Steve is a retired professional who maintains aspirations of being a professional disc jockey, and he's lent his talents to emceeing several music festivals in Michigan. Welcome to the show, Steve, how are you today?

Steve Joghart:

I'm doing well today. It's a beautiful day. I'm actually down in North Carolina right now. It's a nice day down here now, it rained a little while ago.

Aaron Gobler:

And is it significantly different climate wise than Ann Arbor, Michigan?

Steve Joghart:

Well, I'm up in the mountains. And it's actually interesting. As far as temperature goes, it's a little warmer, usually. But very similar. We don't have the every afternoon rain showers that we seem to get in Ann Arbor. We don't have the rain showers we seem to get down here in North Carolina.

Aaron Gobler:

And what do you find yourself doing mostly when you're, you know, vacationing or relaxing where you are?

Steve Joghart:

I relax. One thing I do, I try to take a three mile walk every day and down here there are all kinds of places to go and take three mile walk so that's something I do.

Aaron Gobler:

Steve, you're you're one of several guests that I've interviewed who found out about the show through my conversation with Christine Lavin from Episode 54. What inspired you to be guest yourself?

Steve Joghart:

She sends out you know, an email newsletter periodically, or an email update of what she's doing. And she mentioned your show and gave information about how to be on it. And I but you know, hey, I've got some favorite songs. And it'd be fun to talk about them. Talking about music is fun. And, and I always wanted to be a disc jockey, which of course, part of that is talking about songs. It's like it's a chance to pretend to be a disc jockey being interviewed or something. It's hard to say exactly. It just sounded like a lot of fun. I thought it would be a cool thing to do.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I hope by the end of the interview and the release of the show that I've done justice to your wishes to be semi famous on the radio.

Steve Joghart:

(Laughter) Yeah, well, yeah, that would be good. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm not saying that I am full famous. But I'd say I'm probably somewhere in this semi-famous among the people who listen to the show.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, well, you're, you're really famous among people who listen to the show.

Aaron Gobler:

(Laughter) Yeah.

Steve Joghart:

I listen to a couple of podcasts and those people are famous to me. I've actually had a thought, if I were ever to be a professional DJ, and I'm 70 years old. So that's unlikely. I've had this thought of a show format which is similar. Part of it would be for me, where I do say a two or three hour show once a week. And I have 52 years. So you got years from say 1960 through 2011 in a like a hat. At the end of each show you draw a year and you've got another year, and you do a show about music from that year, but not hits.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Steve Joghart:

Like the broad spectrum of what was going on in that year. It'd be interesting for me as much as possibly for an audience because I'd have to do research and find out what the heck was going on. And for a lot of those years, I really don't know. So it would be really interesting exercise for everybody. So I can understand where you're coming from.

Aaron Gobler:

In some ways, it sounds kind of hokey, like, you know, we're just gonna pick this year, and we're going to talk about songs for that year. But obviously, people are born at all different times during all different years. And so what year or what chunk of time you choose for those songs can be very meaningful to a particular person, because that was very formative time or an intense time or whatever. And so it's got more poignancy and meaning than just scattershot songs across a variety of times.

Steve Joghart:

And part of the idea would be you talk a little bit about the song on what might have influenced then where music went from there. So you got a continuity to it in that respect.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. What is very powerful when I've gotten a lot of positive feedback about this show is stories people have. And that was really my goal from the very beginning was because so many songs in my life, so many times I can hear a song and immediately brought back or transported my mind to that time. And I even had a guest that said that when she heard "Brown Eyed Girl," she actually could smell this field, wherever it was she was. Her school organized something, and they were outside. And she just connects that song with that smell. So it's amazing how our brains can kind of shift so quickly to that. And that's kind of what I'm trying to capture here is how a song can bring back a time, place feeling, etc. And, and then people have stories about them.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, that's interesting, right? Or yeah, what, what's the significance? But yeah, sure. And all three of the songs I picked, of course, are songs out of my past that for one reason or another, I've just really loved that song. And interestingly, thematically, they're all actually fairly similar. The first two I knew were fairly similar. But "Box of Rain", I picked it because the song that I was going to pick, you weren't licensed to play. So I had to pick another one. I guess I'll do "Box of Rain". And then I realized later things, I was like, Oh, that was perfect, because it fits the same thematic trajectory of the first few songs. It was pretty cool.

Aaron Gobler:

Nice. Well, I will get to that list in a moment. I want to give you an opportunity now and for my listeners to get a glimpse into what your disc jockeying career at your dormitory, which is what you told me you've done, can you spin the record backwards in your mind and remember what might be like what you would do on that or what song you might be playing in that show?

Steve Joghart:

Most of the songs I don't remember, but I do remember because I was a brand new Deadhead in those days. Brand new, I first saw the Grateful Dead at Michigan State. And just like the spring before, and I'd seen them a couple of times, but "Sugar Magnolia" we had 45 of "Sugar Magnolia", so I played that. But it was not my ideal situation because it was a dorm radio station. Okay, they played, they played the music over the wires of the dorm. They didn't even have a broadcast tower or anything. It just it was just FM through the wires as the dorm to the rooms in the dorm. I had no idea if anybody ever listened to my show. But I had fun. The station manager there was an aspiring station manager. So he had a playlist and we had a set of 45s, we were expected to play six or seven songs from that collection of 45s and I think we were allowed to play either two or three songs of our own choosing of any kind. But it was still fun. It was still fun. I would have rather been able to bring in my albums and I also liked a much broader spectrum of things and like to try to turn people on to cool songs they probably haven't heard. And I would have loved to have done more of that. But I didn't get to do that. But it but it was a lot of fun. And I always had my own special little closing to the show and I did get to do one one hour show on the campus wide student radio station. That was a lot of fun. And my friends were supposed to tape it for me, but their tape recorder didn't work. There is no tape of that show.

Aaron Gobler:

We've got to take your word for it. Unless any witnesses were...

Steve Joghart:

I had people tell me it was really interesting, too. I had a lot of fun putting that one together.

Aaron Gobler:

And then no disc jockeying since then?

Steve Joghart:

No, no, nope. I emcee folk festivals, that's as close as I come.

Aaron Gobler:

Well I'm really delighted to get the story from you about your disc jockey career, limited disc jockey career.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah. So yeah, I actually did, I guess I did kind of a disc jockey thing for a while on Facebook. I used to post three or four years while I was still working. But before I retired, I'd post a link to a song on YouTube every day one song and I'd say a little something about it. I usually create for myself a theme of the week and try to find cool songs that would fit, that was fun to do. And I use links to YouTube because I didn't want to get in copyright trouble and get put in Facebook Jail for posting my posting songs directly to Facebook. Well, it depends on what I'm doing. I believe when I'm around the house, I don't kind of think of putting music on, which is weird because music used to be constantly on when I was in college and, and after college, places I lived were never silent. Somebody was always playing music. And I don't do that a whole lot at home. But if I'm in the, in the car, I either listen to NPR, the talk shows, or I'll listen to something off my YouTube playlist. And I try to walk three miles every day. And I always, almost, occasionally I'll listen to Good Ol' Grateful Deadcast or some podcast. But I usually listen to music off my iTunes playlist when I'm walking, which I really enjoy, and hear new music because I'm always adding new music to my iTunes playlist. And I have a playlist called, "Never Played", to make sure everything I put into iTunes I at least hear once.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Steve Joghart:

I put music in there either because I buy CDs at concerts or I get to see great deals on the internet. I just bought a 10 CD set of old Tom Waits radio broadcasts from the 70s. So I'm working my way through that. Or I have a subscription to E Music, which has all kinds of things I've never heard of. And pretty much entirely things haven't heard of. So I discovered new music that way. But I load up that playlist, and then I'll put that on shuffle and when I go walk, but I almost never get to the point where I played that whole playlist, so I can go back and listen to all the albums and old music and so on. But I ty to do that now and then too.

Aaron Gobler:

So Steve, let's jump right into your songs. You had mentioned a couple already. The songs you chose were "Jubilee" by Mary Chapin Carpenter from 1994. "It Will Come to You Again" by David Buskin from 1972. And "Box of Rain" by the Grateful Dead from 1970. Steve, I'm eager for us to listen to your songs together, and to discuss the significance of each song to you. So let's jump into your first song "Jubilee" by Mary Chapin Carpenter.

Aaron Gobler.:

Steve, "Jubilee" is really a beautiful song. And it strikes me as like a great fusion of folk and country music. But after some research I did on Carpenter, I discovered she does not like to be pigeonholed into any particular genre. What inspired you to include this song on your list?

Steve Joghart:

Well, I think that's I think that's probably right about Mary Chapin Carpenter. I don't see her as any particular genre. But the song is really, really meaningful to me, because my wife for a long time, I've always thought the song could have been written for her. I mean it's, I don't mean to bum people out. But it's, it's she was always a kind of extreme introvert. And I kind of got the feeling that she was like, Well, I don't, I'm not comfortable having all these friends because I'm really not there yet. And, but eventually, she got attacked by depression, you know, which is just a devil, just a devil, and then used alcohol to, to deal with that, and, and really got to the point where I mean, we're saying, "I can tell by the way you're walking, you don't want company". It's just I like this song, the song works so well, because it's a recognition that you know what, I can't fix it. I can't make this better for you. It's, it's, I'm just another person here. I can't make this better for you. I can't fix you. But I want you to know that I'm always here. And anytime you want to reach out, and it's not just me, you have friends, you have people that love you in the world. Anytime you you want to come and and be with us, we want you to come and be with us. You know, we will celebrate, but we can't fix you. You know, this is something you have to go through. And there's a there's a line in there that says, "we're all like frail boats on the sea". We've all been there to some degree. There's some place at some point we have really felt alone, we have really felt like what the hell am I doing what is going on? And it's kind of understand your're not even alone in your feelings. It's just, it's more extreme in your case, but you're not alone.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I hear what you're saying. I think the most we can do is be there and be supportive, like you said and let someone know that they have a support net, right. But there's only so much you can do like you said exactly. You know, people are their own person.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, you can't just... trying to drag someone into their support network. It's like, counterproductive. It just doesn't, you can't do it. It's like telling someone, they have to have surgery and you're gonna lay them down on the table and cut them open. No, they have to realize... I like more thinking about something not working right than something wrong. That's sounds, sounds somehow judgmental, even though it's not meant to be.

Aaron Gobler:

And so it's not all happening in a vacuum, right? Because all the people who really care about the, the other person, part of that other person is part of them. And sounds like they're, you know, highly empathetic to that person. And it hurts. It definitely hurts them each, you know, when this person is, is having trouble.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, you can really hear that in the way Mary Chapin Carpenter sings that song, you can hear that, though, wishing she could do more. I understand how you feel. And I want to be there with you. But you really hear the pain and the love and in her voice that she sings the song. It's just a wonderful song.

Aaron Gobler:

And then her use of the word "Jubilee" is not necessarily, you know, a particular event like some town might have a jubilee celebration or something. Do you feel that she's using it as some kind of metaphor or allegory?

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, I always think of it as the point at which you really experience being fully alive. You know, and alive, particularly since she keeps talking about the people who love you and the people, that she's talking about being fully alive and being fully alive in the company of others who aren't being fully alive.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, because just listening to it casually, at least for me, the first time I listen to it, was just thinking of a Jubilee and not thinking of it in the way, you know, that you're describing in terms of the definition of the word.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, I never thought of it as it's going to be a big party, but a being much more. We're all here for each other. And isn't that a wonderful thing? Look at the ... look how wonderful. You can do it, too. We're inviting you. But we can't make you come.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. And I think in the mind of a lot of people who are suffering, they feel like they're actually a burden. As much as the others try to say that they're not.

Steve Joghart:

Right, right. I think that's true. And whether that was true in my wife's case, depression, kind of, I know, from reading about it, and what I know about it, I've never experienced it to that degree, but it's, you don't even care enough to think about whether it matters. It's just, you're just there. You know, it sounds like it's just just a terrible thing. And alcoholism, of course, is just the devil. It's terrible. It's interesting, Christine Lavin who, as you mentioned, her email after she was on your show that inspired me to come on the show. And she has probably the best song I know about, more specifically about having a friend who was an alcoholic. Really, really sad, wonderful song, it just nails it listening to that song. "Until Now", I think is the name of the song, great song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's one thing about human nature, and this can go for something in terms of humor or, or sad things as well, is that we often think that we're having unique experiences or kind of insulated, when it's actually an experience that so many other people have had, and you know, in a joke that someone makes, or a meme on Facebook, and you're like, yeah, the exactly, you know, or in this case, you know, someone actually can encapsulate the feeling and the energy or lack of energy or whatever, around the particular thing that we go-- that many of us go through in life and put it into some kind of poem or song and become super powerful.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, one thing I realized, just while I was listening to the song, I listened to the song again, right before and one thing that struck me too, is, you know, this song also reminds me that there are all these people out there that love me. And if I'm, you know, I, that's a really wonderful thing to have somewhere in your head, when you're starting to feel lonely or isolated are kinda like, what the hell's going on? So is not just for someone else. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

That's a good point. Yeah, there are people who are... who may be thinking about you at this particular moment. You know, we don't know. We don't know.

Steve Joghart:

Right, right. But I there's, you know, there are people that are always happy to see you. And that's true for pretty much everybody.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes.

Steve Joghart:

Probably everybody, actually.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Well, thank you so much for the very personal and touching story about this song and it seems extraordinarily poignant to you.

Steve Joghart:

Tears in my eyes every time I listen to it, and I've listened to it a lot of times. It still gets me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, kind of bittersweet. Steve, the next song on your list is "It Will Come to You Again" by David Buskin. So let's give that a listen and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Steve, I'd never heard of David Buskin before. But after some research, I did some research about these songs, I discovered that many popular artists, including Judy Collins, Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Mathis, and Roberta Flack have recorded some of his songs. So why did you choose to include the song on your list?

Steve Joghart:

to put albums on. But record companies didn't know that they just knew we were a radio station. So they'd send us all these promo albums. And they just get piled up in the back room with well, it didn't even need a note, we just all knew, go through these if there's any you want, take them because we don't have room for them. And the David Buskin album was one that I found, there are a number of great, some great music, I discovered that nobody's ever heard of David Buskin, that David Buskin album was one of them. And then he came and actually played in East Lansing three or four times, and I always went to his concerts, his concerts were as wonderful as the album is, just great shows.

Aaron Gobler:

And lyrically, the song I've only listened to it a few times now. But each time I listen to it, I realize it really is pretty dense with lyrics. Do you have any thoughts on the on the meaning of lyrics in the song?

Steve Joghart:

It's similar in a lot of ways to "Jubilee" in that, again, it's a song to someone going through some kind of serious crisis, either depression or some sort of accident or something that's really left them traumatized, some kind of trauma. And again, it's a recognition that I can't fix it, I can't make you better. You know, I want to do something for you, what have I got, I've got music I can, I can give you music, I will give you these songs. And what I like about this song is it not only is it a wonderful song about empathy, and love and care for another person, it's also a really wonderful song, about music, about what music does for us, if I'm feeling down, I'll put on some music. And let that person sing to me just like Buskin is talking about singing to this specific person he's singing to, and I like his line of "follow where it leads, or turn in any way you want to, make it what you need". Because a song isn't just one thing that's concrete, this is exactly what it means, it can mean all kinds of things, just like any kind of art. I remember, a teacher in high school talking about writing to E. E. Cummings, and asking what one of his poems meant, and his response was, "Not being a critic, I don't expect my poems to mean the same thing to any two people, or even any one person twice". And that's kind of what Buskin is saying when he says, "turn in any way you want to." I'm not gonna tell you what the song means I'm just gonna sing you some songs, whatever you need to get out of them. That's what I want you to do. And it just the magic of music really comes through in that song. And I just, I love that aspect of it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, and as you're saying that about the song can mean different things to different people. And I feel like we all vibrate at different wavelengths. And so certain songs will kind of meet that, that vibe, even at different times different songs, but nobody's wavelength is exactly the same. And again, that could change in a person over a period of time or minutes or hours. If it's if it's too on-the-nose, then it's not really necessarily art. And the more maybe perhaps the more interpretable it is, I would say some people might look at Jackson Pollock's artwork and say that this looks crazy, and that doesn't require any skill, but somebody else might look at that and go I can completely like get the vibe from this, you know?

Steve Joghart:

Yeah, no, I think that's right. I think really, really great art will reach different people in different ways. I think that's right. You look at it and go "Oh". You know, and somebody else's say "I see it this way" and you go "I never looked at it that way. I can see how you might see it that way. But that's not how I see it. I see it this way."

Aaron Gobler:

Right. It also underscores for me if you talk to somebody about a movie and they say they hate it, but then you talk to someone else and they say they love it, then it's probably something you should see.

Steve Joghart:

Right.

Aaron Gobler:

Because it means it's not bubblegum. It means it's something about it that really touched somebody a certain way and somebody else another way.

Steve Joghart:

You never know which side you're going to come out on when you do that, but it's probably at least going to be interesting to think about how could anybody have loved this movie? How can anybody hate this movie? This is the best thing. Songs are the same way. Songs, bands, everything, you know?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Steve Joghart:

But I'm an old Deadhead and I know people who just don't like the Grateful Dead at all. I'm like, Well, okay, you know, I I kind of understand not liking their concerts because long jams are an acquired taste. I love them. But I can understand people do not. But some of their songs are still good.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yes, that's a great segue into the third song, which is Grateful Dead song, as you mentioned before, and that's "Box of Rain". So let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Steve, this is the third Dead song I've included on the show. I'll admit, I didn't know the other two Dead songs that guests chose. And I'd never heard this one before either. I really, really enjoyed it. So thank you for having it on your list. I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Steve Joghart:

Well, it's just always been a favorite song of mine, one of my absolute favorite, Grateful Dead songs, even though I don't think they've ever done a 25 minute jam "Box of Rain". But it's such a beautiful song. And much more abstract than typical. Mary Chapin Carpenter song is somewhat abstract, but you still pretty well get what she's, where she's going with it and kind of what she's talking about. The Buskin song is pretty straightforward. It's just wonderful. He just expresses it so beautifully. And, and the music in it the whole song is so beautiful. This song is typical for Robert Hunter lyrics. Don't try to solidify what he's trying to say with most of his song. It's like Bob Dylan songs or Leonard Cohen songs, you understand what he's saying even though you could not ever tell anybody what it means.

Aaron Gobler:

Right. Okay.

Steve Joghart:

And it probably means something very different to each person that hears it. Like we were, as we were talking about a little earlier. And this song is like that. It was apparently written when Phil's dad was dying. So it was had something to do with that experience he was going through, but he didn't write the... Hunter wrote the lyrics. So I'm not sure exactly how but thematically it's really similar to the first two songs in that, again, you get this in pieces in it. It's like, you know, what do you want me to do? I you know, I'm just another person here. I'm not a miracle worker. Probably my favorite line of the whole song is, "What do you want me to do / to watch for you while you're sleeping? / Well, please don't be surprised / if you find me dreaming, too." You know, I'm just another person here. I'm going through stuff too, you know, I want to share it with you. Share this experience of life with you. And I want to share what it is you're going through. It's just... "Box of Rain" probably one of the one of the real enigmas of Dead lyrics is what the heck is a box of rain? I don't have an answer. You get a clue at the end when it talks about "sun and shower, wind and rain, in and out the window". It's like looking out the window at rain. It's it's like a box of rain there. But I don't know that that's at all what Hunter had in mind when wrote the lyric.

Aaron Gobler:

Similar to the E. E. Cummings remark, you know, maybe it was written as being just creating some kind of neutral visual for you. Because even if you were to have a box to contain the rain, when we think of a box, we think of like what cardboard or something that's going to probably get all soggy, right? So if you think even if you were to think of a plastic box of rain, it's like what what exactly is that? So I think it's like you're able to then project onto that whatever it is, you know, here is this, this box of rain, maybe there's something in there that you can use or maybe not. And if not, then maybe it's some some other person can make use of it or something.

Steve Joghart:

Yeah. Believe it if you need it if you don't just pass it on somebody else. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

And like maybe he was really like in some kind of altered state when he wrote this and it just was already just some kind of like obtuse...

Steve Joghart:

That couldn't be the Dead were never in altered states. (Laughter) They would've never done something like that. (Laughter)

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I mean, it could have been purposefully obtuse so that you are allowed to project into that box, whatever, because a box of rain. Rain is rain. I mean, what what else? Is it right? It's not like, it's almost a passive thing, where it's like, you know, thunder and lightning or things that are much more intense. But rain is just rain.

Steve Joghart:

That's interesting. Yeah, that's interesting way of looking at it. Yeah. Yeah, it's just is what it is. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

So you had suggestedat the very beginning of our conversation about there being a theme across the songs. And so what I'm feeling from this is, is about how we interact with others, and how we can empathize with others, and try to help them. But ultimately, it's up to them to kind of help themselves. Is that a good reading of it? Or how would you describe your theme?

Steve Joghart:

Kind of. Well, yeah, that's reasonably right. It's, it's, again, it's, "Please don't be surprised, if you find me dreaming too". You know, I'm here with you, but I'm not going to do ... there's nothing extraordinary I can do, I can just be here for you. That's what I can do. That in itself is fairly extraordinary. But it's, it's nothing you can't do. It's, you know, we're all in this thing together. And I'll do what I can. And I, you know, and it's always, all three of the songs are really an expression to somebody that you really care about them. You know, there's, there's a lot, there's a love and all through all of these songs. And it's, it's really nice to be able to share these things. Another way I kind of did my disc jockey thing is I love to make mix CDs, Music Mix CDs, I just love doing it. And it gets to the point where if I'm listening to music, and concerts sometimes too, I'll hear a song, in my mind, I'll go off on, oh, this would be good sequence with this song and this song, we could put this theme together, this would make a great CD. And I like CDs better than playlists, because they're finite. I mean, they have they have a specific link. So you have to pick out a specific set of songs that fits in that little box. And I had a girlfriend probably for four years, I would make her a mix CD every month. And I really look forward to making those I love doing that. So you know, that's my little way of reaching out to people. And, again, let the music take you, follow wherever it leads.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I want to thank you, Steve for taking the time to be on the show today and providing me your list. And I really enjoyed our conversation and, and experiencing these three songs that I had not heard before. And I imagine you had a good time yourself, too.

Steve Joghart:

It's been really fun doing this because part of it was maybe turn a few people on to these songs that I think are so great. It never worked well at all, because I used to try to play things at parties and things. But I tried to play these obscure oddball things and people are like, No, we just want to hear good party songs. We don't want to hear that song. Rats, but these are such good songs. I want people to appreciate them. And there's a good chance here because these are good songs, particularly the David Buskin song, which is just I say, within very recent times has been made available at all digitally. So it's been years since anybody has been able to share that song. So it's really a thrill for me, and hopefully somebody listening to your show is gonna go. Wow, that was cool. Thank you for turning me on to that song. Because I just think it's a wonderful song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it is a beautiful song. So Steve, before I sign off on this episode, I'd like to hear what your sign off was for your dorm radio.

Steve Joghart:

My sign off from my radio show back when the I was in Shaw Hall doing a radio show. I always ended it with the New Riders of the Purple Sage song "Rainbow". But before I played that song I always signed off with, "Always remember, with the storm comes the rainbow. And if you look real close, you'll see that rainbow is just a reflection of you."

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, so thanks again and to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 58 : My Three Songs with Noah Rubin

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 58. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talked about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Noah Rubin. Noah is the son of a good high school friend, Debi Rubin. He grew up in the same area I did in the suburbs of Philadelphia. And he now lives near me again, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Noah works as a software engineer at a large company in Silicon Valley. Welcome to the show. Noah, how are you today?

Noah Rubin:

I'm doing great. Thank you. How are you doing?

Aaron Gobler:

I'm doing well. You know, I usually ask my guests how the weather is where they are. And you're not geographically that far away from me. But I think the Silicon Valley tends to be hotter than Berkeley.

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, it's been pretty nice. I mean, I like hot weather. So you know, enjoying it. But it's like 75 right now, which is pretty good.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, yeah. That's not bad. Noah, before we start, I'd like to acknowledge that you are the youngest guest I've ever had on the show. And most of my guests have been like 50 or older. And well, I've encouraged my own 20-something children to be guests, they've opted not to. I want to thank you for potentially opening up my audience to a younger crowd. What made you decide to be a guest?

Noah Rubin:

Yes. So I heard about the show from my Mom, as you mentioned before, but it was really interesting to me, because I'm like, super into music, the music that I listened to a lot I'm very passionate about. And I don't know, being able to like talk about it with someone else is really cool. So seemed like a great opportunity.

Aaron Gobler:

I certainly appreciate you deciding to be on the show. And I'm really eager to have a conversation about songs. And I'm not even aware really of the artists primarily or the songs. So I was introduced to a lot of new stuff in preparing for the show. So before we get started with your song list, is a question I ask every guest, How does music fit into your life? Like, is it in the background or the foreground of each day?

Noah Rubin:

That's a really interesting question. I think, for me, it's probably both. So it's in the background a lot. During the day, whenever I work, I find that I work best when I have music in the background, I do a lot of biking. That's like one of my favorite pastimes and my primary source of exercise. And one of the reasons why I like it so much is because I can listen to music, you know, listen to upbeat music, and that really gets me you know, encourages me to bike fast. So definitely in the background, sometimes, but also in the foreground, because, you know, the three artists that I have today are, you know, three of my favorites and very important to me, and I'm very, you know, into, you know, these albums and, and the lyrics and the stories and all of that. So definitely both.

Aaron Gobler:

And do you do when you're at work or you're biking, it sounds like you do choose particular playlist and they may not be the same songs that you choose, because you want to be in a certain kind of mindset.

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, definitely. I mostly listen to full albums. I'll definitely you know, listen to playlists of singles or random songs that I'll pick out sometimes. But very often I listen to albums start to finish. And yeah, depends on the mood if I'm you know, biking, and I want something upbeat, I have some go to artists or go-to albums that that I like to listen to. It's, you know, after my biking when I'm kind of chilling out, and I'm kind of tired. I have some music that fits that mood as well. If I'm working maybe some more general stuff, so definitely different artists and albums and songs for different moods.

Aaron Gobler:

And do you ever find yourself seeking out silence from music? Or do you find sometimes that when something is too silent or an environments too silent that you're longing to hear some music?

Noah Rubin:

I usually find myself, I guess, consuming some sort of media, like if I'm not listening to music, then maybe I'm watching you know, a TV show or a movie or a YouTube video or something. Maybe it's, you know, bordering on I don't want to say a problem but just, you know, constantly being entertained by something. But I do often find myself listening to music rather than sitting in silence if I'm alone.

Aaron Gobler:

Noah, you're a programmer just like me. I find that I when I sit down to do some programming I need to have some kind of music playing in the background. And sometimes I may turn it down a little bit if I'm trying to like, figure something out that's confounding at the moment. But I do find that it's triggering something in my brain. That's, that's maybe helping me with what I'm doing. But I do find it more distracting sometimes when I'm programming and it's quiet. Is that something that you experienced as well?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, I think I definitely agree with you. Sometimes if I'm working on something particularly challenging, or if I'm really trying to think through a problem, music with words can be distracting. So I'll put on something maybe ambient music or maybe some sort of a soundtrack, a video game, soundtrack or or movie soundtrack that doesn't have words in it. But I generally do find that music helps. I don't know it almost maybe like distracts some part of my brain or puts it on auto-pilot. And then the part that's focusing can really focus on it. So, so yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's fascinating how that works. You mentioned just a moment ago, you said video game soundtrack? Can you give me some more background on that? One of the songs I had on the show several guests ago was an award-winning song for a video game. And so I didn't really understand that there was like this industry of really professionally-produced video games songs and or their albums, then, or is there a soundtrack to a particular video game? That's actually a set of songs you can purchase? It sounds like that's what you're describing?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, absolutely. Typically, you know, obviously, you know, you'd expect a video game to have some sort of music, and I'm talking, you know, not maybe not so much like the mobile games, but like, the kinds of games you play on a computer or console, some of the bigger ones, you definitely expect them to have sort of an album, you know, music to go along with them. And so typically, most video games will have an album to accompany them. So for example, one game that I really like is called Celeste, it's a 2D platforming game about climbing a mountain. It's a very challenging game, but but a lot of fun. And so there's a soundtrack for it. And the soundtrack is it's an hour and 41 minutes, it's 21 songs. And it just, you know, it's all the stuff that you hear in the background, typically, you'd hear it on a loop. But here, you're hearing it really more in the foreground I guess, and you're hearing the primary part of it, but it's kind of cool to listen, you know, I listen through the soundtrack, sometimes. And then I can think about, like, the different areas in the game, or the different songs appeared, and what they kind of mean, to the story and all of that stuff. So it's kind of cool.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, and on that same note, just you talking about and me looking at your list, and some of the comments you made about your list. And this a lot of this seems very album-based, like and you mentioned just a moment ago about how you like listen to albums. And even though I grew up with albums, and I still have the physical, lots of physical albums and CDs, I just find myself listening to individual songs or lists or or playlists of artists that maybe it'll be like all the songs from that album, and then the next album, so in that way, I am listening to an album. But I feel like listening to an entire album is kind of a throwback. I'm wondering like how with today's technology, I'm assuming you're not buying vinyl or CDs. How were you then playing your albums?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, that's a great question. And that's one of the reasons why I'm really excited to like talk on this show. Because all three of these songs that I've chose, I love all these songs. But they also sort of represent their albums as well, because all three of these albums are concept albums, varying degrees of concept albums, but you can enjoy the songs on their own. But if you listen to them all, you know, together from start to finish, then it's something more than the sum of its parts. Basically, there's a story or a theme that goes on. And to answer your question... so I use Spotify to listen to my music. But basically, I have a playlist for each artist that I like, and I just have all of their albums in chronological order of when they were released. And you know, I'll just go into an artist and, and pick an album and start and you know, usually start from the beginning and just listen through it.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you have a turntable? Maybe not where you are, but when you grew up, it was or like a stereo at all? Or did you use vinyl records at all?

Noah Rubin:

Honestly, no. I do have some I have some vinyl records of these albums, which, you know, the majority of the music I listened to is, you know, 2000 and beyond. And so you know, these are sort of more collector things than you know, a product of their time. But it definitely the whole album thing is not something from my childhood. The way that I was introduced to these to these artists kind of informed my way of listening I guess.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, the whole idea of an album before CDs even were around or anything was really just for a lot of artists was an album, like a photo album or something that was a collection of things that were kind of relating to each other. And then the album seem to become, you know, just a bunch of individual singles and certain ones you know, were big and you'd have to buy the whole album just to hear those particular singles. There are plenty of artists... I'm just thinking of Taylor Swift as I don't know why she pops into my head, or maybe Beyonce where there's actually a theme to the album. And it's not just a collection of disparate songs. It's actually a themes kind of thing. And so I don't really know how often that still occurs. But that's kind of what you're describing here is these, these songs we're gonna be listening to are from albums that have some kind of, there's a cohesiveness, about the songs on that particular album. Would that be a good assessment?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, absolutely. And it definitely varies. So, you know, one of the songs we'll listen to is from an album that sort of has a general theme, it's a theme of like a long distance relationship and a relationship that sort of falls apart or dies. And then there's another song that's from this incredible five album collection that together make up a single story about the entire life of this fictional character. And, and it's incredible, every song, you know, it's six and a half hours worth of music. It's all telling one cohesive story of this person's life. And there's just some absolutely incredible things like that, that are that are out there.

Aaron Gobler:

That's quite a project and quite a lot of dedication by the artist for something like that.

Noah Rubin:

Absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

Noah, that's a great segue to your list. So the songs that you chose were "The Sun and the Moon" by Mae from 2005, "A Lack of Color" by Death Cab for Cutie from 2003, and

"The Bitter Suite III:

Embrace" by The Dear Hunter from 2007. Now, Noah, I understand there is a theme to the three choices. Can you elaborate on that?

Noah Rubin:

Yes. So all three of these songs come from artists that were introduced to me by my former drum teacher, B.J. Capelli. So I took drum lessons with him from fifth grade through twelfth grade. So it was a pretty pretty long time, and I guess, maybe some formative years. But he introduced me to all of these artists and some other ones that I also love. And these are artists, these are, you know, my favorite artists of all time, ones that I go back to and that I've been listening to, for years. And you know, that's really had such a profound impact on my life, just because music is so important to me. And you know, before, before this back, you know, I guess I was elementary school, middle school, whatever, maybe people don't have as much of a defined music taste, but I was listening to a lot of, you know, just whatever happened to be on the radio. But you know, this introduced me to some of these bands that I really loved, and care about their music and understand some of the, you know, deeper messages that exist in the music. And so B.J. basically, single handedly defined my music taste, and it's had a big impact on my life. So I'm definitely gonna send this to him. I hope he's listening to it.

Aaron Gobler:

And if he's listening to this show, what's a new album and artist or song that you would want him to check out now?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah. So originally, I had a different option for the third song. It's from this album called The Idyll Opus, by this band called Adjy. A-D-J-Y, and it's a very recent release. It's just over a year old. But it's another one of these incredible concept albums. The physical release just came out recently. And it's actually a book. It's not a CD or a vinyl. It's this whole book. It has all the lyrics in it with all of these annotations on the side. There's biblical references, there's cross references between different songs. There's just all the language and and stuff in the songs is amazing. So it just goes in that same sort of concept album. It sounds kind of like The Dear Hunter. So I think that would be an album that he that he should check out.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Well, I hope he gets a opportunity to listen to the show. And I'm sure you're eager to hear what he might think about those selections. Noah, I'm eager for us to listen to your songs together, and to discuss the particular significance of each song to you. So let's jump into your first song. "The Sun and the Moon" by Mae.

Aaron Gobler.:

Noah, this is a beautiful song and it put me in a very calm mood. I appreciate the minimal instrumentation, but it still has a robust sound production quality, and it's certainly a subtle but charming song. What inspired you to include this particular song on your list?

Noah Rubin:

Yes, so this is essentially the last song on the album, "The Everglow". And this album is sort of somewhere in the middle of the spectrum for a concept album, and it tells sort of a loose story about this person who is initially struggling a little bit through life and looking for love and then you know eventually arrives at this place called "the Everglow" and, and is able to find it and be happy. And so this song is sort of at the end. You know, after all the struggle that's that's happened and all the things that this person went through, and they're now at the end and they're very happy. And at peace, I guess, I think it's just a great end to the album and an end to the story. This song sonically is definitely not representative of the album, the rest of the album is a lot more guitar. And I don't want to say like a hard... I guess a harsher sound, but not in a bad way, just not, this is very, like calm and relaxing. And the other stuff is more in there. And I love all those other songs, don't get me wrong. But you know, this song is is, is a nice ending and sort of after everything that builds up to it, and you know, the way that it ends is very nice.

Aaron Gobler:

That does underscore how individual songs can have their own quality to them. But then in the context of all the rest of the songs, it could have a very different kind of feeling like, in this case, you're saying it's kind of like, the culmination or the conclusion, but listen to it, you know, with the other songs, like you're saying that are that are more intense, per se, this is kind of a nice outro relaxing to kind of feel. And then if, if you're just listening to a song like this on its own, you might appreciate it more in the context of having the other songs in front of it.

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, you can definitely appreciate it both ways. You know, if I'm in more of a calm mood, this is, you know, a good song that I listen to a lot on its own, but listening through the album, and you know, hearing everything else, and knowing that you're going to end up here is also really great. So there's, there's something to be gained in both ways. This was probably the first real, I guess, the first band that I really, like, loved or had a strong feeling for, you know, before then I would just listen to whatever was on the radio. But now, you know, here's a band that I, you know, I really know their discography. And, and I really love their sound and all that. So really the first band like that for me.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you feel they've been consistent across their albums? Or have they tried different types of um ... some bands will try different styles as they create their art?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, that's a great question. I think this band kind of has maybe three or four distinct periods. There was an album before this that, I guess has a similar sound. This one's maybe a bit more polished. The next album that they did, they were on a major label, and they tried to go mainstream. And that personally is my least favorite album of theirs. It's not a bad album. But it's not my my favorite of theirs. And then after that, they kind of went back to a little bit more like this sound, they took a long break, and then they came back with stuff that sounded a bit more experimental, which I also really liked. And I think that they're essentially broken-up. Now the individual members are doing kind of their own thing at this point. So in my senior year of high school, which was the last year that I took drum lessons with B.J., I actually learned the entirety of this album, on the drums I learned. There's technically fifteen songs, the first song and last song or a prologue and epilogue so there's not really music there. So really thirteen songs, but I learned you know, all of these songs, I learned all of the drum parts for that recital. I did sort of a drummer study on the drummer Jacob Marshall, where I talked about some of the... we called them like Jacob-isms, just like the distinct stylistic choices that he made. So that was sort of my my culminating drum project and my presentation. That's why it was pretty sad for me when he left the band, but that also gave me you know, a deeper appreciation of you know, this music.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, that's great. So let's jump to your next song, which is "A Lack of Color" by Death Cab for Cutie. Let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Noah, when I first heard of Death Cab for Cutie back in the 2000s I thought they might be a death metal rock band. But honestly, I had not heard a single song by them until this week. And I started exploring a number of their tunes. And a lot of them are very subtle and beautiful, like this one ... and other ones are more, you know, more boppy but I do want to go back and spend more time listening to their catalogue. Why did you choose to include this particular song in your list?

Noah Rubin:

Yes, so this song, I guess I'd say it's probably my favorite song. If I had to pick one song. That's the answer that I've given for a long time is this song. I don't know. So this is a you know, it's a relatively short song. But it manages to do a lot in that time. It's a really really sad song and it creates sort of this mood and the lyrics I want to talk about the lyrics because they're very, they're very dense. And there's a you know, there's a dichotomy in the lyrics but some of them are very dense if you dig into them a little bit, but it just does a lot with that short time. This is also the last song on this album. A lot of my favorite songs are the last songs on albums. Because you know, obviously the last song on an album is the last thing you're gonna hear the last chance to sort of summarize everything and, and leave a last impression. And so when an album has a really good, you know, last song, it really makes me appreciate that album a lot more. And you know, therefore I like a lot of the these last songs are a lot of my favorites.

Aaron Gobler:

I went through YouTube and just popped in and out of a number of their songs, but I didn't really concentrate on this particular album. But like you said, this is kind of a bookmark or, or bookend, it is a bookend for the album, just like the first song would be the other bookend. In comparison to the first song we listened to where you said, this was kind of a resolution and calm finish to that album, where does this fit in to the canon of that album? Where does this fit in into the story of, of this album by Death Cab?

Noah Rubin:

I'm really glad that you that you asked that question. So basically, you know, the first song on this album is called "The New Year", it's actually a tradition of mine every year, right before midnight, on New Year's, I start playing that song. And if you started I think like 40-something seconds before the New Year, the song will say "so this is the new year" right when it hits midnight. So that's been a tradition for a while. But it's very, that song is a lot more hopeful. You know, it's the new year and there's you know, some some celebration. And then the album kind of it's not really as much of a story is like a feeling but it goes through this sort of idea of of a long distance relationship. And that's what transatlanticism means. It's the idea of you know, relationship. You know, the Atlantic Ocean is like a metaphor for a great distance, you know, between people. And then it comes to the song at the end, which is a really sad song where the relationship is completely completely gone at this point. And you may have heard at the end, there's that weird noise that kind of sounds maybe like an airplane, like the inside of an airplane. But that exact same noise plays at the beginning of the first song. And if you put the album on a loop, and close your eyes, you won't actually know precisely when the song ends, and when the first song begins again. So I think that also has a meaning of, you know, some sort of a loop, you know, in this story.

Aaron Gobler:

To me, it sounded like not like full-on static, but like you said it was just kind of like a white noise. And yeah, I guess it can be interpreted a lot of different ways, like someone tuning in hearing this whole thing, and then kind of tuning out, you know, or I have to listen to the whole album to get that to get that feel. Was there anything else you wanted to mention about the song that I didn't ask you about?

Noah Rubin:

You know, I don't need to do a whole, like, dissertation, on the on the lyrics, I just want to say, there's a really interesting dichotomy. So the first part, the lyrics are very dense, there's these these lines, you know, the first part, he says, "when I see you, I really see you upside down, but my brain was better picks you up and turns you around". So on one hand, that's referring to the phenomenon where the brain actually sees images upside down, like the way that the light enters your eye, is actually upside down, and your brain sort of corrects it. But it also, you know, it, you know, in a more metaphorical sense, you know, sort of this idea of, you know, you're seeing things, you know, in a different way than they really are, in reality. And then it's repeated again, in the second part, "if you feel discouraged, there's a lack of color here, please don't worry, it's really bursting at the seams from observing everything to spectrums, A to Z." So again, there's a scientific phenomenon of we only see a very small portion of the entire spectrum of light. And again, it's that idea of things aren't the way that they seem, you know, he's trying to say, you know, things are actually much better than they seem, you know, but in reality, I guess, you know, maybe they aren't. And then there's this shift, you know, he says, "This is fact, not fiction for the first time in years," and it shifts from this very metaphorical language to this description, where he's, you know, drunk and calling it 703. And, and leaving a message and saying, you know, "I should have given you a reason to stay." And it's a, it's a real shift, not in the, in the tone of the songs, but in the tone of the lyrics to this particular situation, you know, sort of saying, maybe he was trying to reason, or to say, you know, things are better than they seem, you know, trying to logic that out. And then at the end, you know, this is the reality, you know, he's alone, he's drunk and very sad. So it's just, I don't know, the lyrics in the song are really interesting to me.

Aaron Gobler.:

Do you think he's trying to talk to himself ... to console or counsel himself by saying, you know, there's a lack of color, and but it's actually okay. And there's actually ... "I'm bursting at the seams". There seems to be a certain amount of remorse, like you said, is the song him talking to himself? Or is it really him talking to another person?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, it's hard to say, I could definitely see it either way, I could see, you know, this is sort of trying to convince, you know, convince this person to stay. And the second half, you know, you see that it fails, or maybe the entire thing is taking place, sort of in the mindset of the second half. And you know, he's kind of thinking, you know, thinking through this relationship and how it failed and then, you know, gets drunk and upset and all of that I could definitely see it either way.

Aaron Gobler:

Are the rest of the songs in that kind of vein in terms of really having enjoyable or digestible but not simple, more complex concepts? Are the rest of the songs like that?

Noah Rubin:

A lot of their music is kind of like that, you know, there are some things that may have, you know, a double meaning or you know, a second meaning. There are definitely a lot of other songs like that. This is a particular example that I've like thought about a lot. And I didn't notice this for a long time. But when I really looked at the lyrics and noticed it, I thought it was kind of a beautiful thing. But there are definitely other lyrics of theirs that do things like this.

Aaron Gobler:

And the last song on your list is "The Bitter

Suite III:

Embrace" by The Dear Hunter. And I just want to note that it's "Bitter Suite" S-U-I-T-E so it's little play on words there. And that the band's name is The Dear Hunter D-E-A-R ... not as in the animal deer. So that was another interesting play on the words there. So without further ado, let's give a listen to "The Bitter Suite III: Embrace" by The Dear Hunter.

Aaron Gobler.:

Noah, I really like this song. It has like this dreamlike parts at the beginning. And then it gets into this really intense feeling. And it's just really intriguing to listen to. It reminds me a little of Radiohead, and also the band Keane, specifically, because Keane has the really clear keyboard sound that's prominent in a lot of their songs. So I'm eager to know, what inspired you to include this particular song on your list?

Noah Rubin:

Yes, so this song is, you know, part of a much larger story, I won't go too much into the details. But basically, this band, The Dear Hunter, D-E-A-R Hunter, like you said, they released a collection of five albums that are, you know, together called "The Acts". And they tell the story of this unnamed character who most people refer to as Hunter, like the band's name, basically, you know, Act One, he's growing up in this very sheltered life out in the woods and the beginning of Act Two, his his mother dies, he doesn't, you know, the father is another story, his mother dies, he travels into the city. And he's very naive, he, you know, he's lived his whole life with just his mother out in the woods. But he travels into the city, he discovers a brothel called The Dime. And this story, this this song is actually, you know, he goes in, he meets this woman named Miss Leading, which is another pun, lots of puns here, he meets this woman, and, you know, this song, I won't go too much into the lyrics. This is, you know, basically what happens there. But the story goes on, he later, you know, finds out the truth about her and gets very angry. There's another song that I was going to pick a little bit later in the album called "Red Hands", where he basically finds out the truth and, and he's very mad, but at the same time, you know, she never really lied to him. You know, he didn't realize, you know, what, exactly her profession entailed. But, you know, the story goes on from there, at the end of the album, he goes off to fight in World War I, and our Act Three is him fighting in the war. And the story continues from there. But it's just such an incredible project and an incredible story, that I wanted to include a piece of it, and this album is my favorite album out of the five. So I picked a song from there.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for picking this one and sharing it. Did you hear the song and experience this song first? Or did you just experience this as part of listening to the album? And when did you get this realization about the meaning or the actual lyrics? Like where were you picking up the lyrics and understanding the context of all this as you were listening to it? Or did you go back and kind of research it?

Noah Rubin:

You know, I think I had an idea that there was something more obviously, you know, the names of the album's kind of hint at that. And some of the names of the songs, you know, this is "The Bitter Suite III" and there's a total of six of them. Six Bitter Suite songs across the five albums. So some of those things can give a hint. But I definitely, you know, got into the music more. And then I went back and really read, there's some great write ups on the internet that explain the story very well. So I really went back in later, and did that. I think that the great thing about this song, and all of the songs that I've said is that you can enjoy the songs on their own as songs, you can enjoy the album as an album. But if you really dig into the story, there's like another layer there. So it's good music on its own. And you gotta... you know, the music has to be good on its own. But then there's also another layer there and I think that that's just like really cool.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, that's awesome. I didn't realize this kind of stuff existed. And then I I've said this often during the show is that I don't go and seek out a lot of stuff. And so through the show I've been exposed to I don't know over 70 or 80 songs maybe that I've never heard before, this has been great for me, because I'm hearing stuff that I wouldn't normally seek out. I really appreciate you bringing these songs to the fore. I certainly appreciate your passion for these particular songs. I also see in this in the choice of these particular songs, because I know each of these songs doesn't represent the whole catalog of the artists, they all seem to have some kind of mostly mellow, calming, mostly ethereal kind of feel to them, versus I guess, some other songs in these artists' catalogs, which may be more upbeat. So do you feel like there was something also thematic about the these three songs in that regard?

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, that's an interesting thing, because I didn't really think about that. Because definitely, you know, if I had picked other songs on these albums, it would have had a different feel, you know, sonically speaking? So I definitely, I definitely do agree with that. And I think, I don't know. I mean, I like a lot of genres. But I guess, you know, maybe that kind of music is just something that I go back to, you know, that sort of sound a lot of, you know, I like a lot of longer songs, two of the songs you listen to are pretty long. And a lot of them I guess, kind of have a sound like that, that they you know, go on for a while. So, I don't know, I like that about it.

Aaron Gobler:

So Noah, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, things you may have thought about while the songs were playing? Or answers to questions that I haven't asked?

Noah Rubin:

Not too much, I guess, um, you know, I'll say a lot of these bands, I guess Death Cab is the other one you heard of, and definitely the most well known of the three I say well known, I'd say the average person maybe has heard of them. But these other bands are definitely a lot smaller. And a lot of the music that I listened to, is from, you know, a lot of these smaller bands, a lot of it, you know, it's been recommended to me, by people, especially you know, B.J. who I mentioned earlier, or a lot of them I found on Spotify. But a lot of these smaller bands, I find, I don't want to sound like you know, I'm born in the wrong generation, or like, be pretentious or anything. But I feel like if you seek out these small bands, the smaller bands, they're doing like these really cool projects, and not that the bigger popular stuff is bad. But just, you know, you were saying like, you know, you didn't realize that maybe all this stuff still existed or existed in the first place. But you know, the smaller bands, if you can find them, which is the hard part, there are, you know, lots of really cool things like this that are that are going on.

Aaron Gobler:

And do you believe that the ability to self-publish or just to you know, put things out there electronically, instead of having to get a distribution network or you know, getting it pressed onto some kind of CD or vinyl, that that makes a difference for this kind of genre or this kind of style, you can be very organic in getting your listeners or fans for your music?

Noah Rubin:

Absolutely. I think Spotify is some of the best money that I spend every month just because the recommendations are so good. And I found a lot of bands that I love through that. And you know, a lot of them are very small bands that definitely don't have the resources to put themselves out in front of a lot of people. But they're able to find these smaller but very dedicated audiences through you know, stuff on the internet and music recommendations and all that. So it definitely makes a difference and letting these you know, smaller bands, do different things, experiment with different things and then find an audience that enjoys it, absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's a much different time than when we were you know, just on vinyl. And that was it. You had to put your record out on vinyl, and you had to get physically the record to people to listen to it. And then to promote it and, and such. So it's really remarkable.

Noah Rubin:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, Noah, I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot and I'm really delighted to talk to someone who is who was younger than 50. No offense to all people I've interviewed who were who were older than 50. And I feel like there is hope for me to get younger folks on the show. So I hope you had a good time too.

Noah Rubin:

Yeah, this was a great experience to just talk about some of this music that I really love and you know, share it, you know, and great questions that you asked as well. So it was a great experience.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Thank you again for for taking the time to put your list together. Thanks for being on the show. And to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called Dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show. He would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that man Magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody. Please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few, I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler.:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 57 : My Three Songs with Susan Kohn

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 57. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my guest is Susan Kohn. Susan is a retired disability analyst. But she has had many other vocations including computer programmer, corporate events planner and project manager, medical records auditor, an ESL teacher. She is an avid music listener and is currently enjoying the return of live music events in Manhattan. Welcome to the show, Susan, how are you today?

Susan Kohn:

Thank you. I'm doing great.

Aaron Gobler.:

That's fantastic. Is it a sweltering summer day in in New York?

Susan Kohn:

No, it just cooled down starting yesterday. And it's we said beautiful weather. So the past couple of days and the next few days, we're having 80 degrees.

Aaron Gobler:

I feel that the few times that I've visited New York, it could either be very rainy, or humid, or just hot. And I guess most of my visits were during the summertime, but I'm glad it's a nice day there.

Susan Kohn:

Me too.

Aaron Gobler.:

Susan, you signed up to be a guest almost immediately after I released my interview with Christine Lavin for Episode 54. I know you're a big fan of hers but what about that show prompted you to be a guest yourself?

Susan Kohn:

Actually, it wasn't so much her show, which I did listen to. But she had posted on her Facebook page before the show ... What are your three favorite and most meaningful -- I don't remember the words she used -- songs, write them down or whatever. And I'll tell you why tomorrow. So she had a little teaser. And she got, you know, it wasn't even clear to me whether we were supposed to tell her the songs or what. So I came up with songs rather quickly, which is why I ended up changing them because I realized I wanted to put more thought into them. So after she revealed why she was asking us this I wanted to be on I mean, it sounded great. It sounded like fun even before I heard her.

Aaron Gobler:

To the point you made about Christine putting this on her Facebook page, I actually had interviewed her two weeks before her episode aired. And so I'm sure she was chomping at the bit as it got closer. And I told her I don't release the show till Tuesday. But I let her know about it on Monday. And so she was like teasing her Facebook page, which is what you saw about it. And then at midnight Eastern Time, she then put out a message saying it's you know, here's why I asked you. It's an interesting marketing technique of kind of getting everybody like wondering what's you know, what the news is going to be? I'm so delighted that you made the decision to be on the show. And you are, you're one of several people who have asked to be on the show based on connections with Christine. So I think that's fantastic.

Susan Kohn:

Christine is...I love her music. She's a talented creative musician, but she's known in New York where she's lived for the past 50 years I believe, as being a networker, finding people connections she'll meet someone and say, "Oh, you really need to meet this person and that person." She does that totally in the music scene. Um, she probably does it outside of the music scene, as well. So I wasn't at all surprised that when she heard about this, and she figured it is a great thing that she wanted to bring more of her friends and fans along.

Aaron Gobler.:

Yeah, that's a that's really a very generous of her for her time and her spirit and energy around the networking and connecting. And I've been one of several people in certain emails that have circulated about the show and about people who she spoke about on the show. And the people who respond to the email point out her generosity in connecting people. So it's something that a lot of people are very aware of, and are very appreciative of, and it's great to have positivity like that. I think that helping people is something that you have to take time to do and make an effort to do and to many people it doesn't seem like a burden or a chore at all. It's just Something that that is just part of what they do. And I think that's the kind of person she is.

Susan Kohn:

I agree. It totally comes naturally. She meets you and she realizes, "Oh, you would like to meet this person? You have something in common with that person." She can't help but do that.

Aaron Gobler.:

Yeah. (Laughter) Well, I it's really a wonderful trait. So Susan, before we get started with your song list this question I asked every guest, like, how does music fit into your life and is it in the foreground or the background of each day?

Susan Kohn:

Well, especially since I retired a little over a year ago, it is in the foreground, a lot. I've probably listened to music at least three hours a day, it's hard to say what it would be will be when we're not COVID-limited. I guess I would be getting more live music. But at this point between, there are a lot of musicians I enjoy who do streams. And I listened to a lot of them, I have over 1000 CDs that used to be in very good order. They're not in such good order anymore. So there's some I guess I never get to listen to but there's so many that I love that I listened to those and the ones that are that I can find where I'll go into a different corner of my closet where it's like, Okay, let me take this stack of 30 and see what I want to listen to from here. I am home a lot of the time and I just about always have some music playing. I'm not a TV person I never was. So the time that most Americans are spending, you know, what is it five hours a day average watching TV? I'm spending that time listening to music.

Aaron Gobler:

Probably better for your soul?

Susan Kohn:

I certainly think so. Well, I have a very diverse range of music that I listen to, including something most of my friends are not into, which is opera.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Susan Kohn:

And the way I got into opera, it was about 15... 17 years ago, I was working for a man who was very into opera. And I talked about how I was very into music, and I was very into theater, and I was into dance. And he said, if you're into all those things, opera just is you know, it combines all of those things. I mean, there's not always dance, but a lot of operas, especially French ones do have dance scenes in them. And I mean, yes, it is theater. I mean, they're acting and they're saying all that. And he tried to convince me and I said, Well, maybe but what I had a hard time getting past was trained voice. I didn't like it. I didn't like listening to trained voice. Um, but I'm always willing to give something a try. This boss, he was financially comfortable. He was friends with a bunch of older women who were very wealthy. And they had a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera together, there was six of them. One day, he called me into his office and said, "What are you doing tonight?" I said "nothing". He said, "want to go to the opera for free?" One of his friends was unable to go. They were not bothering to try and find someone to give the ticket to and you know, he said, "I know someone who might want to go", so I went with them. And I liked it a little bit. I mean, I you know, I didn't hate it. And that was a good thing. And as he said, I did appreciate the scenery and the beautiful -- I mean, the Metropolitan Opera not just has the best singers, but it has one of the best orchestras in the world. So the music was fantastically played. And over the next three or four months, it seemed that every single month, somebody or other couldn't use their ticket. So at that point, I had written their schedule down into my schedule to keep that day free. In addition to all the other things he had mentioned, he and his husband and these four women, you know, and I, or three of the women and I were there, and the baritone singing this part came on stage and this man was gorgeous. And all of us, the two gay men, and the four women, were all sitting there like, oh my god, is that guy, gorgeous? Just you know. So that was another thing, okay? You can have real heartthrobs in the opera. There's one that I really loved "La fille du Régiment", "The Daughter of the Regiment", and it's by Donizetti. I saw it two or three times in one production, and the two leads were amazing. The soprano was a French woman named Natalie Dessay and she is an actress I mean, she was an actress, I guess before she became an opera singer. And I don't know, because productions vary a lot from one to another. But there was a lot of humor. She was just, she was very funny. And she did a lot to just sort of ham it up.

Aaron Gobler:

Did you ever imagine years ago that you would be this big fan of opera?

Susan Kohn:

Never, never when I was a kid, and I guess they still do it, WQXR plays opera on the radio every Saturday or Sunday, my family used to go to the beach on Saturdays. If it was anywhere between March and October, and it was over 50 degrees, we would go to the beach.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Susan Kohn:

And my father was not allowed to smoke his cigar in the house. So we'd get in the car and he would smoke his stinky cigar in the car. So to me, I mean, it took me a while, you know, therapy might've helped ... but I don't know. It took me a while to realize that the reason I would get sick whenever I listened to opera was not from the opera. It was from my father's cigar. And we were listening that he would be smoking while I was listening. Right? That was progress that I realized, ah, can listen to opera without a cigar and without getting sick.

Aaron Gobler:

They don't allow smoking in the concert halls. So you don't have to worry about cigar smoke when you're enjoying the opera in person.

Susan Kohn:

Exactly.

Aaron Gobler:

That's, that's great. I really appreciate you sharing all your adventure, your journey into the opera world. I've seen "Carmen" I've seen "Turandot" and it's really quite a fascinating experience compared to other kinds of stage work.

Susan Kohn:

Did you enjoy them?

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. No, I actually knew music from each of them. And so I was able to almost ... like you go to a concert and you hear a song that you know. But yeah, just the scenery and the acting and the singing. It was just, yeah, it's like you described at the beginning. It's just a it's a combination of a variety of different arts in one performance.

Aaron Gobler.:

I'd like to jump over to your songs. The songs you chose for today, were "My Father" by Judy Collins from 1968, "City Song", otherwise known as "The Heart of New York City" by David Ippolito, from 2000. And "Just to See You" by Lowen and Navarro from 1993. Now, Susan, I had not heard any of these songs before seeing your list and I'm eager for us to listen to them together. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's start with the first song, "My Father" by Judy Collins.

Aaron Gobler:

Susan, I will admit I'm most familiar with Judy Collins is mainstream songs like "Both Sides Now" and "Send in the Clowns". But the more I hear from her catalogue, I'm realizing she is more of a storyteller in so many of her less famous tunes. And I'm eager to know what inspired you to include the song on your list.

Susan Kohn:

Well, first, let me say this is one of the few songs that she wrote. The ones you're talking about, you know, one was by Joni Mitchell. One was by Stephen Sondheim. So she covers a lot of other people's songs, but she also on an average album of her's, she's probably written one song.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Susan Kohn:

You know, 10 or 12 songs. I'm happy that this is a podcast and not a TV show so you didn't get to see me crying. But you still might hear it. It reminds me a lot of my father. And from what I know about Judy Collins' family, actually, I think it really is much more about my father than hers. I mean, I know that her father was blind. He was not working in a mine. I don't believe he ever ... I don't know if he ever even went to France. I don't know, you know, in terms of whether, what's real for her, but my father was a German Jewish refugee. So he escaped Germany. And before he came over the US in the late 30s, he lived in France. And he used to talk a lot about France and the memory. I mean, I just I always wanted to live in France ... the opera "La Boheme" takes place somewhere around the 1920s in Paris. And you know, I always had this image when I see that you know that my father is actually there. My father died when I was in my mid-20s. So I mean, he was there for my childhood, you know, youth but he's been gone a very long time. But I believe I fell in love with the song while he was still alive. Judy Collins is one of the first musicians I discovered. I think it was from "Both Sides Now" playing on the radio. It's on an album of hers called Wildflowers, which is my favorite album of hers, so I just loved every time I get a new Judy Collins album, I would be exposed to somebody new. In "Early Morning Rain", and that turned me on to Gordon Lightfoot. So then I had to go out and get his album. She did a lot of Bob Dylan songs. And I knew Bob Dylan already, but my favorite Dylan songs are either Judy Collins, or Joan Baez, covering songs because he's a wonderful poet. I like what he writes. But yeah, there are people who can better sing his songs.

Aaron Gobler.:

Yeah, this song is the first song you put on your list, and you changed your list a few times, but it remained on your list as the first song. So it just seems like it's a really poignant, meaningful song to you.

Susan Kohn:

Yes. If you had asked me it, probably at any time over the past 40 years or whatever, you know, what are my top 20 songs? This song would probably have always been on the list. The others would not.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's a beautiful song. And it's very touching story. Thank you for for sharing with me that it sounds like it's a very meaningful song to you. So let's jump to your next song, which is titled "City Song (The Heart of New York City)", and it's by David Ippolito. And we'll give that a listen and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Susan, this tune is very understated, but it perfectly sums up David Ippolito's love for New York City through like metaphor and other figurative language. You know, I often consider New York City's being insular, chaotic, and overwhelming at times. But this song describes a city that is hard not to love. And Ippolito enumerates all of its good parts. What inspired you to include the song on your list?

Susan Kohn:

Well, I guess I share his love for New York. I was born in Manhattan and have lived here my whole life.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Susan Kohn:

You know, I went to college on Long Island, I was up in Montreal for a year, you know, I've been I've gotten away for a year or two. But basically, this is where I live. And sometimes when things get challenging, I think about leaving, but I haven't been able to figure out anyplace else where I would want to live. "I live here and I love her." She's my hometown. David grew up with Toledo, grew up in Long Island, moved to the city in his 20s and has been living in Manhattan ever since. He is known as the Guitar Man from Central Park. He has been busking in Central Park for 30 years. It's totally how he supports himself.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Susan Kohn:

A friend had told me about him 18, 20 years ago, and I started going and because of where he is located, he's like right in front of a pond. And the people who sit there are on a slight incline. So he calls his fans who are the "People on the Hill". But it used to be hundreds of people would be there. Now, it's not as many. Christine Lavin, by the way is one of his fans, and she comes there sometimes.

Aaron Gobler.:

And this particular song resonates with you because you have the same vibration about the city that he does?

Susan Kohn:

Yes. And also he's got a line in there. You know, "people who've never been here blindly put her down." That's so true. I mean, I'm here for two days, and they feel they know everything, you know?

Aaron Gobler:

Right. Yeah. Each time I listen to it, I do pick up other things that he's saying in it. And they do ring true. On this listen, I picked out the disparaging things that he was listing at the very beginning, and then says, you know, but besides all that, and then he starts going into all the good things. So it does really, I feel like it does a great job of summing up New York City. I think that it does an excellent job.

Susan Kohn:

I agree.

Aaron Gobler:

I think you had you had described it to me earlier as a as a love song. You said it's his love song to New York City. And it really is, you know, that's what comes through certainly. Thank you so much for sharing that song. That's not one that I would have ... I never heard of the artist and I would not have known to even have found that song. So I I certainly appreciate you, including it. The last song on your list is also a song I hadn't heard before. And I really enjoy it and I'm glad to have experienced it. And that song is "Just to See You" by Lowen and Navarro, so let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Susan, this is a really beautiful song. I mean, it's simple and calming. And for me it conjures like lying on a grassy area of an outdoor concert hall in the summertime. With like a cool breeze breaking the humidity and this music wafting through the air. I want to thank you again for for sharing this tune with me. Why did you choose to include the song on your list?

Susan Kohn:

I love this duo Lowen and Navarro. I'm sorry, I didn't discover them earlier on. I think they started in the 1980s I'm not exactly sure. This song was from 1993 I believe. I discovered them in around 2000. I think I discovered them at a folk festival. Probably Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, which I used to go to every summer, Clearwater Film Festival. Lot of great folk festivals. I love their voices, their harmony and their writing. Unfortunately, Eric Lowen developed ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2004. He was able to continue touring, and they continued playing for about another five years. I think they stopped in 2009. And he died in 2012. So Dan Navarro has continued playing on his own. I mean, I love his songwriting, too. Dan was one of my salvations during the early days of COVID. He is LA-based, and is a touring musician. And when COVID came along, and people just lost all their gigs, for their sanity, and you know, and money. But he was, I believe, really doing for sanity. He did Zoom meetings, Zoom sessions every day for the first, it had to be about a year and a half. And they were not like half-hour sessions, like some people do. They were two hours or three hours or, in addition to being a talented musician. He's a raconteur. So you know, sometimes he would talk for 20 minutes. And there were many of us who would come to those sessions. This got us through the days of Co... the early days of COVID. And this particular song, I mean, they have a lot of love songs, and there are a lot of beautiful songs. I had a hard time picking a favorite. And if I had to pick one tomorrow, it could be another one. I don't know. It's not unlike the Judy Collins song, you know, which is my clear favorite of hers. Although I do have others, I probably have 20 favorites of Lowen and Navarro's. But this one is just so sweet. And yes, I can see you're you know, lying in the grass and it's just nice images.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's a beautiful song. And I'm interested in checking out some more of their catalogue. And I also appreciate the fact that you know, you have so many songs in your mind that you could use on on this list or have on the show. And I certainly can't think of many artists that I really, really enjoy. And it will be hard to pick just a few songs even from from the repertoire.

Susan Kohn:

Yes, Simon and Garfunkel were actually on my list originally when I was trying to think of people but you know, there were too many songs that came up for them. It's like (Squealing) so they kind of fell off the list.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah, there's -- right, so there's a there's a group where there's so many like, how do you even choose? And you could do several shows just of Simon and Garfunkel songs. It would be it'd be hard to choose so I can I can appreciate that. Susan, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections like things that you thought of while we were listening to the songs or answers to questions that I didn't ask you?

Susan Kohn:

Not about the specific songs but there was something else about my music listening, I wanted to share.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, sure.

Susan Kohn:

It just because this was such an influence on my musical life, there's a DJ who is always New York based named Vin Scelsa, he started DJing in possibly the 60s, but definitely it was by the 70s. And he was on various usually college radio stations. He was on WNEW for a while. He was always local stations. And you know, up until 20, 25 years ago, if he was on a local station, you couldn't hear him if you lived out on the coast or wherever. As the internet developed and things changed, people were listening to him all over the country, but somewhere around late 1990s I rediscovered him and one of his fans, a guy named Scott Persky called ... I mean, he didn't have any connection to him and they had never spoken, but he called him up or emailed him or something and said, I listened to your show alone all the time and I just have this feeling that there are other people listening. And I would like to create a email group or listserv or something that we could go in and listen and chat with each other while we're listening to your show.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Susan Kohn:

And Scelsa said, "I don't know anything about computers. I don't know what you're talking about but sounds good to me. Sure, go ahead and do it." Within a few days, there were, I don't know, 100 people signed up for it or something. Scelsa retired, you know, in his 60s, about 10 years ago. So between about 1998 and 2012-14, whenever it was, my social circles revolved around the people I met through that show. A lot of people were from New York, even though a lot of people who had lived in New York but then moved to other places, would still listen and still come to the chat room. People who knew him for a long time were from New York, because you had to be to know him. And he was one of the last people around who had real free-form radio, he, the stations knew that he had an audience, he had a following and whatever he did worked, and they didn't try and interfere with him. He would play whatever he felt like. And he had a wide range of tastes. Although actually he couple of times he played some opera but not usually. He was big on the Ramones every now and then he would have what he called the "Ramones Attack" and he would play like a whole bunch of Ramones songs or he played, "I Wanna Be Sedated" several times in a row, whatever and he'd get really excited about that. He used to have guests, some were musicians, some were writers, authors. For much of the middle of his career anyway, his show was on at eight or nine o'clock at night until whenever he decided to stop. I think officially he you know, had to play till midnight, but the shows would go to one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock in the morning, as long as he felt he had something to say or play. Yeah, I just was exposed to so much through him. I mean, he was the first person to interview Norah Jones on radio or whatever.

Aaron Gobler:

It is remarkable even years ago, even like, you know, 30 years ago, it would be remarkable really to have a disc jockey that had free rein and didn't have a program director, you know, breathing down their neck and saying you got to play this and here's what you got to do next and such. So that's kind of a rarity. And I can imagine the excitement of listening to that program, because you didn't know what was going to happen, you know what he was going to include or do or such. So I think that it sounds like it was a breath of fresh air during a very, in what is generally a very tightly controlled and programmed type of medium.

Susan Kohn:

Even when we'd be in the chat room, sometimes, you know, while his show was going on, we'd sit there and chat.

Aaron Gobler:

Often listening to music can be a very kind of solitary thing where you're, I don't know how many people gather around a radio and listen to it together. It's really kind of neat to have this little forum or community going on simultaneously. So you can all discuss what you're all experiencing. So that's kind of unique, I think.

Susan Kohn:

And because we were mainly New York based, we would have social get togethers events. Soon after I joined a bunch of people were turning 50. So there was a joint 50th birthday party, you know, for seven or 10 people who were all turning 50 that year. And we would get 30 to 60 people at a lot of these different events. Apparently there had been a huge event before my days that got two or three hundred people, but yes, that's that was where I met my social circles and where I found you know, I met several of my boyfriend's from that period. And there's something nice about dating somebody where you know, you at least have music in common, you know?

Aaron Gobler:

Exactly, exactly. You never got a chance to meet Vin Scelsa in person though?

Susan Kohn:

I did. He was ... he was shy, but he came to a few of our events, you know, so basically ... he didn't really want me to come over and say a whole lot. But I just went over and thanked him and said how much I enjoyed his shows or whatever. But yeah, he did show up at some events.

Aaron Gobler:

I don't I don't know if that's a common or uncommon experience to have this kind of community around a disc jockey. Maybe I've missed out on that. It sounds, but it sounds very rewarding. You know you from your experience, how many people you've met and, and all those connections. It's really fascinating thing to think that a disc jockey could could help people coalesce in that way.

Susan Kohn:

I think he was very much was musically like one of a kind. So everything about his career and trajectory and following was unique and this group we had could not have occurred before internet. I mean, that's, you know, it couldn't have happened with someone earlier.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, thank you for that story. That's very different, you know, a community centered around a radio personality, I guess the closest thing I can think of maybe like, Howard Stern. And that's a whole different type of thing.

Susan Kohn:

You know the Yiddish term "l'havdil". It means Oh, the difference! What a difference?

Aaron Gobler:

What a difference! Very different. Very different. Yes. Well, I wanna thank you, Susan, I had a lot of fun talking with you and learning more about your love of music and your music experiences. And then this story you just related about Vin Scelsa, I thank you for for including that.

Susan Kohn:

I had a lot of fun too. And thank you for putting me so at ease, it was a little bit daunting.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I'm glad I was able to put you at ease that you had a good experience. And I'd like to say to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for the mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called Dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make this somebody please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler.:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 56 : My Three Songs with Keith Jefferds

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 56. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Keith Jefferds. Keith is an award-winning stage, film, and voice actor, but I met him when he was doing graphic design work here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Welcome to the show, Keith. How are you today?

Keith Jefferds:

I'm doing well. Aaron, how are you?

Aaron Gobler:

I'm doing well. Can't beat the weather here in the East Bay.

Keith Jefferds:

The best in the world.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, yes. Keith, I've been following your acting exploits the past several years over Facebook and uh ... what projects or shows are you involved with at the moment?

Keith Jefferds:

The one I'm involved with currently, it's a repeat for me. I've only done repeated, you know a script two times. And this one is "Harvey". The well known some people call it a chestnut, but it still plays wonderfully well. So I'm doing that down in San Leandro, San Leandro Players.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Keith Jefferds:

Boy, this is like a whole other experience. You know, we've had some great audiences, from whom I learned, you know what I mean? The feedback is extremely important. And I, I really feel there's a loop between me and the audience. And it just helps me to find the absolutely new things every time.

Aaron Gobler:

And you mentioned that so this is your second go-round on with this particular show. But it sounds like you did it with a different troop or a different location.

Keith Jefferds:

Yes, I did. I did it with Chanticleers Theatre in Castro Valley about 10 years ago. You know, as a graphic designer, you know, "Harvey" requires a portrait of my character Elwood P. Dowd with his friend, the invisible rabbit, kind of, you know, large framed portrait, so I created it for that show. They gave it to me at the end of the show, so I was able to supply it to this new production. They were thrilled at not having to, to do another one. So it was another little calling card as it were.

Aaron Gobler:

And how did you land it? Or did you seek out this role, again? Are you listing yourself as you know, this particular character available for "Harvey" performance in your local town?

Keith Jefferds:

No, it tends to not work that way.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh okay. (Laughter)

Keith Jefferds:

I've done two shows this year and the I didn't audition for them. The first one I was invited, which is very rare. And for the "Harvey", they lost their Elwood P. Dowd. So they were, they were looking around, it was still many weeks before opening, so it wasn't a panic situation. But the guy who was there previous Elwood, who had to bail out called me and said, Would you by any chance, be interested in this? And I said, Yeah, and I've done it before. And so I called them up. And they were, they were delighted. They didn't really know me. But, you know, I sent them my resume and seemed pretty clear to them that I could drop into the production.

Aaron Gobler:

And during the height of the pandemic, I know I saw on Facebook that you were doing certain things from the comfort of your home, perhaps or remotely or from the stage maybe without an audience. Is that right?

Keith Jefferds:

Yes. There was one instance of that I had done before the pandemic just before the pandemic, at Contra Costa Civic we did "It's a Wonderful Life" which is staged, as it is sort of based roughly on on a real event, which was after the movie came out, they did a radio production also with the lead Jimmy Stewart. And the radio production was as you would expect people standing in front of microphones with a foley artists making sound effects. All the usual. So this script, this play script, you know, for live theater is written in such a way that people are standing at mics, doing a radio show, right?

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Keith Jefferds:

So we had done that already, including with a wonderful wonderful foley artist and pianist. He was a kind of double threat. And so we already knew the production very well. So when the pandemic came, Marilyn, at Contra Costa Civic, asked us if we'd like to do it again. And what we did was we came into the theater, and we're, you know, videoed, each standing at a mic, and then they actually did some editing on it. So it was it was essentially like a film shoot, except people were, you know, we're obviously just, you know, figures in an old fashioned radio studio. And so they, they put it together, and then, you know, streamed it. And so but we came in to do that live in a sense, not with an audience, but with, with real people on a real camera man. And, and sound and staging.

Aaron Gobler:

That was a great improvisation of, due to the circumstances.

Keith Jefferds:

It was a perfect, it was a perfect script for, you know, for the pandemic period, because it because we could even stand apart from each other. Yeah, we didn't have to be close to each other beyond mic.

Aaron Gobler:

But it's got to be like, 180 degrees different than being in front of a live audience and actually getting that feedback immediately.

Keith Jefferds:

You know, we all think about that. And as I just said, from "Harvey", boy, the feedback has been extremely, you know, like a learning experience for me. And yet, sometimes I still feel like I can, you know, even in rehearsals, I'm the type of person who comes in and tries to give it you know, everything for the beginning which unnerved some people, they just want to learn the lines and find out, you know, where their spots are, and move to them and put it all together slowly and carefully, you know, but I'm, I'm essentially acting a part as soon as I, you know, soon as we start. I can't think of any other way that makes sense to me.

Aaron Gobler:

But it sounds like you're saying that the audience is instructive to you in some fashion, not just that they're making noise, but they're actually something extra there.

Keith Jefferds:

Yeah, well, the responses and a comedy is of course, easier than a, you know, then on a serious drama. But, you know, in a comedy, you have absolute feedback on whether it's successful or not. Okay, and when they laugh and how they laugh. So, yeah, that that's the kind of thing I mean, so sure, it helped a lot in that instance, but I don't have any problem like standing in front of the camera and doing the same thing. You know, maybe I wouldn't be learning the same things.

Aaron Gobler:

Right. But you also lack the silence if something doesn't land properly. (Laughter) If you're in front of a group and it doesn't land then you know also.

Keith Jefferds:

Yeah, the deathly silence. So I guess I guess it's better to do a drama. Cuz you'll never know.

Aaron Gobler:

As long as you're not falling asleep. Right.

Keith Jefferds:

"Death of a Salesman" unless someone is somebody's weeping. (Laughter)

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I really appreciate the fact that you're doing stage acting and was there acting in your pre-graphic design life?

Keith Jefferds:

So I had done some ... I did some acting in junior high school, then just completely forgot about it. I literally forgot that I'd even done it until an opportunity came to you know, in 2005, to be part of a show. But the show I did in junior high school, we had an ambitious director, and she picked a script from the French playwright Jean Anouilh, his version of the Joan of Arc story, a lot of weight. And I don't know ... I wish I knew how edited you know, our version had been. But we did a very serious adult play, you know, when I was in the eighth grade.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Keith Jefferds:

Oh, and one more wonderful episode, which I still think of finally, Joan of Arc went up one night, meaning she forgot her lines. And she's talking to me and I'm playing the Douphin, you know, the prince in waiting. And she whispers to me go on. And I said, I babbled something that actually, you know, in this, you know, this happens that allowed her to pick up her next line, her next train of thought. She gave me a big kiss backstage.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, wow. (Laughter)

Keith Jefferds:

You'd think I would have thought to continue acting.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah, it's a real team effort, isn't it? Because if you're up there and you're not you can't just say stop. You can't stop. And then you gotta you gotta keep it. Keep it going.

Keith Jefferds:

Yeah, it can be hair raising. You know?

Aaron Gobler:

Keith, I ask a lot of people to be a guest on the show, but only a handful take the opportunity. So what inspired you to be a guest?

Keith Jefferds:

Well, you asked me, to be frank. It's, it's like so many things. I just never thought to ask, you know, hadn't really looked at your specs or, you know how you found your your guests. You know, I just started to get your emails and stuff. And I think I gave you some feedback about it or something. And then you asked me to, uh, you know, I love the idea and I jumped right at it. I just never thought, me? That's often the case I often have the thought "me?"

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I don't just ask - I don't like walk down the street just asking people to do this since... I picked people who, who, who I believe have would have a certain passion for music or in your case, I knew you would have a certain amount of charisma and be comfortable, you know, being interviewed and whatever. And and I don't know, something just made me think that you would be a good guest. And I'm delighted that you that you agreed to it. And it sounds like it was mostly me nudging you.

Keith Jefferds:

That's right.

Aaron Gobler:

And that just encourages me to keep nudging people, I guess.

Keith Jefferds:

Never be shy.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah. So Keith, before we get started with your song list, there's a question I ask every guest, and that is how does music fit into your life? Like is it in the foreground, or the background of each day?

Keith Jefferds:

It is in the background. It is not like I play, you know, CDs, like in the old days, or I listened to Apple Music or that I'm, you know, consciously seeking out things. And you know, some of some of what I explain, you know, why I picked these three songs, we'll, you know, go to that point. But, but when I'm into something, you know, I'm really into something, but I may have to, like, fall into it. I stumbled into it. I don't go out looking for a huge range of things. Now, you know, with YouTube and everything, you know, it's wonderful. I'll hear about something and then I can easily find that song, you know, and just play it for myself. But yeah, my interests have been, well like my whole life has been a random path of accidents. And that includes, you know, the three things we're gonna talk about, but I'm not like some people who were Oh, yes, I'm cleaning the house and I'm listening songs. You know, I do sing when I drive. Part of it is a voice exercise part of it.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Keith Jefferds:

I just love it. And I have I have a bunch of song collections. I've made sort of, you know, my, my tapes, as it were, but they're on an old iPod. And I sing along with them. So I am kind of a partner with lots of people. Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams. You know, it's quite a potpourri.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's great.

Keith Jefferds:

That's, that's absolute. When I'm driving, I'm always singing. So be careful when you see me passing.

Aaron Gobler:

So kind of segueing from what you described in terms of your music, listening styles and patterns. You did choose three very interesting songs that I had never heard of ... the artist who actually had heard of Mary Martin ... but I hadn't really heard of the songs before. And so let me go through your list. It's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" by Mary Martin from 1938. "You're Running Wild" by The Louvin Brothers from 1959. "Parlez-moi d'Amour" by Lucienne Boyer from 1930. I took French for several years at school so that's very exciting for me.

Keith Jefferds:

Yeah me too. (Laughter) That's good.

Aaron Gobler:

So as I mentioned, I've never heard any of these songs before seeing your list. And so I'm really eager for us to listen to them together. And then I'm interested in knowing like why each of them is meaningful to you. So first, let's listen to the first song which is "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" as sung by Mary Martin.

Aaron Gobler.:

Keith, this was one of so many wonderfully witty songs by Cole Porter. I know Wikipedia says that there have been over 20 notable recordings of the song. I'm eager to know like what inspired you to include this song, and this version on your list?

Keith Jefferds:

It took many, many different exposures to make me alert to the pop music of America, say pre 1950 And now I absolutely love it.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Keith Jefferds:

But it was like, where did you hear this as a kid? Your parents might have played something like this. There may be an other sources or maybe some strange rock and roll covers, you know, the songs. But one thing that was a big input was there was a radio station and this was in the 1970s and 80s. And I listened to it all the time. So there was a time when I really would have the radio on all the time. And they were playing songs from this period and earlier. So we'd basically cover 20s 30s 40s, you know, a little 50s, a, you know, sort of got into my blood. So I knew a little bit, you know, about the period, and, you know, and Broadway and Tin Pan Alley. So when I finally had multiple other exposures to this, I was sort of ready. Then one more thing happened, I stumbled upon a book, maybe it was at a garage sale, which was "Great Broadway Hits", you know, of the period. And I laboriously started to work on them on my guitar. Which is, which focuses you on a song in a way that nothing else can particularly you know, when you see a diminished seventh, or you know, a nice flatted fifth, or you have to figure it out, you know, on an instrument that wasn't made for it. So I started, I, you know, started to play through this book, and I learned a lot of these songs. And then very recently, I found that I can no longer play my guitar, I'm not in bad shape, but one of my fingers, you know, is developing some arthritis. So bridging and guitar has become very difficult. So I said, Okay, I think I have a little old keyboard somewhere in the background. And I dug it out, I had bought it on a whim and then never played it, and I brought it out. So now I converted some of you know, my musical knowledge from, you know, the fretboard to the keyboard. And I started playing the song, so it brought everything back to life. And when you finally got to me, I really started to think about it, this was my go to book and this song, there are so many wonderful songs, there's countless songs, I could never in my life, land on my favorite song, you know, couldn't do it doesn't mean much to me. This particular song just leapt out of me and leapt out at me for certain ways, how it's put together, what it represents, in terms of influences, the wild humor of it, the history of it, staging, et cetera. So this song is a combination of many, many things. One of them, which just leaps out at me every time maybe you heard it, it starts out in a very bright major key, a almost a razzmatazz-y fanfare, you know, like big, big brassy, Broadway, et cetera. And there's a key change where it becomes a little more modal. You know, he shifted to a, it's not a minor key, but he used a lot of accidentals, you know, musically. And then full on at a certain point, it becomes practically Hasidic. The melody though, you know, you might have heard it, or the same kind of modal sound, you might hear in, you know, the muscle of call to prayer or something very, very, very Middle Eastern or middle European. Which was everywhere in the songwriting of the period, partly because I would say that the vast majority of the successful songwriters were Jewish, and they brought this music from their background. They were dead set on becoming as American as they could be, in their own in their own way without abandoning anything. Porter, was this really amazing, you know, assimilator. He was a complete anomaly in the songwriting field, a really "goyish" guy from Indiana, who, you know, started out writing, you know, what sounded like the elegant Broadway songs, you know, of the pre war period, pre-World War One that is, but at a certain point he made and this is this is, I would say, confirmed fact. He heard, you know, what the Jewish songwriters were doing, and the use of that, that minor melodic thing and said, I'm going to write Jewish songs. Cole Porter went on to use this dynamic of the major minor, like nobody ever has. So the thing moves from, you know, bright razzmatazz to suddenly you're in some kind of modal, you know, twilight, yeah. And this really hasidic melody, you know, which ends with this unique you know. You can almost imagine somebody dovening while he sings. (Singing) I don't know how he does this musically, but he picks up -- it's the same note, but the key changes and picks up that note in a major way. So you're back for the the big major finale, which, which he then ends in a minor, of course, that, you know, the fluidity of all that, you know, also in this song, you can hear where they decided, Okay, we're gonna do Latin rhythms here, we're in the Caribbean. And then we're gonna do big, you know, big band jazz styles, you know, and the content the absolutely wonderfully scandalous content.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I will have to go back and listen to at least just listen to the audio part again, considering all the things you said. I often compare a song to, like a recipe, somebody can make a recipe, really sparkle, some people can just make it be kind of mundane, the end product may taste really, really amazing, but you're not sure what's in it until you talk to the person who made it. And it sounds like you really have done a whole study on this song. And so now I know what the ingredients are, and to go back and listen to it again and enjoy it in a in a more robust way. Yeah, cuz I mean, it sounds it's fun to listen to. And it sounds kind of racy, but I didn't really consider all the levels of how it was constructed. So I appreciate all that, all that information that's gonna make me eager to go back and, and listen to it a few different times, trying to listen for those parts.

Keith Jefferds:

Wonderful.

Aaron Gobler:

So thank you for including that on your list. The next song on your list is "You're Running Wild" by the Louvin Brothers. And that's from 1959. Let's take a listen to that. And we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Keith, I really love this song. And I want to thank you for including it. The harmony by the woman reminded me of Linda Ronstadt. And I don't listen to a lot of country music. So there probably are other women singers who might also fit the bill here. But I understand the Louvin Brothers helped popularize this kind of harmonizing and country music. I also don't know how common it is to have a mandolin in country music. So I'm, I'm curious what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Keith Jefferds:

That's very interesting. Let me ask you one thing in return ... the woman ... there's no woman on the recording.

Aaron Gobler:

So, oh that's interesting okay.

Keith Jefferds:

That's yeah, that's a high harmony --

Aaron Gobler:

Wow.

Keith Jefferds:

The high harmony, which started to appear in the 30s. Anyway, yeah, there. Yeah. Up on top is, is Ira Louvin. And they're dynamite. Yeah. And so, you know, it's not unusual. If you even go back to the origins of bluegrass, you know, Bill Monroe, he's the guy who more or less invented what they call it the high lonesome sound, which is to have the harmony on top. And very, very high as you know, he was an incredible tenor, you know, got a push, push the tenor range, like a lot of people couldn't do. And the same thing is true here. So these are these these are guys.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I'm glad I made that mistake. Because I don't know if I would have gotten the information from you about about that. And it opens up my eyes to how talented someone can be to change their register like that.

Keith Jefferds:

Sure. Yeah. In terms of the mandolin that's a very excellent question. I think yeah, it was Ira who played the mandolin recognized for his skill. Even Bill Monroe you know, the grandfather of Bluegrass recognized and said he was a terrific mandolin player. See, that's part of the thing about this song. This is like the middle ground of country music what you hear today is kind of country rock. It's like rock ... country invaded rock and then rock invaded country right back. Well, this is from a period ... well, well, let me just talk about this particular style as it were, and some of your listeners surely recognized a connection to the Everly Brothers here. The harmony style is is very, very similar and aloof and just they got the jump on the Everlys just a little bit. I have no doubt that the Everlys who were up in wherever they were Indiana listening to WLS you know, picked up the Grand Ole Opry. These guys were on the opry from 1955 you know to one of them died. Yeah. And so the Everlys, I think owe a huge debt. And what kills me about this song we just played is the absolute straight ahead power of it. It just just, it's, you know, unremitting, simple, clear, powerful, heartfelt.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. All those things. Yeah, it is. Yeah.

Keith Jefferds:

Yeah. So I love it also, because I, it's sort of, in another thing I completely fell into, you know, was country music, something happened again, this is in the realm of the complete accidents of you know how I got interested in different genres. I was walking home one night in Albany, Albany, California, I walk past the house on the corner, and there was a guy who I didn't know very well named Warren Zittel. And we got to talking about music. And he invited me over, I said, I played a little guitar. And we got together, you know, a couple of days after that. And he introduced me to a Hank Williams song. And he taught me a harmony part. And we just aced it, nailed it, you know, from the very beginning, and I'd never done any such thing. And then I started to buy records and CDs and so forth. Warren, who passed away a couple of years ago, was was a brilliant kind of self made, you know, music historian about American music, folk music, blues pop, you know, etcetera going back to before the Civil War. So, anyway, so we did, we did harmony parts we did, he introduced me to Jimmy Rogers, Hank Williams, all kinds of stuff. And I also discovered the Hank Williams, who everybody thinks of the people that know him. And that is our wish everyone did. You know, as a soloist, and his harmony parts work extremely well on Hank Williams song. So anyway, so we sang and then, you know, I sort of fell into another thing, just to, you know, circle back to your comment about where does this fit into country. At the same time this was happening, they were already well into the era of what's called country-politan. You know, it's not exactly a compliment. It means the highly processed, somewhat homogenized prettified you know, pop sound when Nashville was you know, trying to cross sell, you know, to the full American public. But these guys, these, these are the real guys in my mind. These guys early George Jones, Hank Williams, the great, great, great master, and Jimmy Rogers. They're just feet on the ground. You know, sing your heart out. No complications, no, no string section.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, there's basically rhythm, guitar, and mandolin and yeah, voices. And you're right, they come right out of the gate, just like going for it and, and it's spotless. It has so much emotion and sounds very authentic.

Keith Jefferds:

Right.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you again for introducing me to that. And I'm sure our listeners enjoyed it as well. The last song on your list is "Parlez-moi d'Amour" sung by Lucienne Boyer and this is from 1930. So let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Keith this version is remastered and often we think that would bring up a song to current standards. But the recording still has a lot of anomalies in it. And I can only imagine the condition of the version they started with. But I don't really know anything about the song or this artist. Tell me why did you choose to include this on your list?

Keith Jefferds:

Just first a comment about the remastering quote unquote ... I don't know even know what the claim means. A couple of different versions online and they're all you know like listening through the fog. And yet you know, she just comes right through to the heart. It overwhelms ... I can almost hardly speak after listening to this song and the you know, the fuzz, you know of the old vinyl somehow it all seems so perfect. It's like watching an old French film, it doesn't have to be up to criterion films. It's still you know, the humanism and humanity of the you know this music and you know other French arts of the time, you know, really comes right right through. So anyway, I again I have to I have to tell you a story of accidents you know, being someone who stumbles on things and doesn't even know what's allowed for him to be interested in until you know various trips and stumbles and and then intention takes over. Now I want to go back not to this artist, but to Edith Piaf, which is the name many more people will know. But this is kind of the pre Piad. This is the beginning of the great chanson ... the great French, you know, intimate cabaret, heartbreak song. I had a friend in college and she played me a 45 of "La Vie en Rose" by, by Edith Piaf. You know, I almost feel like I'd heard it before then, but I don't know where but anyway, so that, you know, made an impression. Years later, when I was living in Albany, I took guitar lessons from very, very fine and fairly well-known jazz guitarist named Will Bernard. But he was at the time playing with a French-style quartet, and they were playing what's called Bal-musette music. It's the music, they played in these little cafes and boîtes you know, dives, even sometimes. So then I thought, okay, so this exists, you know, there's this tradition of wonderful, intimate French, you know, one on one singing as it were. So then years later, I'm singing I'm, I'm taking not lessons, but just kind of friendly drop ins with a very good pianist, I met doing shows, and she had a copy of "La vie en rose" and I learned to do that and a couple other Piaf songs, and all this is like building up then I can't remember the first time I think I saw "Casablanca" once decades ago, but then it became popular, and you could see it more easily on disc. And we all saw it, you know, somewhat later. And so I'm watching "Casablanca", okay. And this will probably resonate at least subliminally, with, you know, much of your audience. When Ilsa first walks into Rick's cafe after this, you know, years long hiatus between them, Sam launches into "Parlez-moi d'Amour". It's, it is the song we just listened to played as an instrumental on the piano. Okay, so all this gradually piled up, and I finally bought a CD of, you know, the chanson tradition, which includes the singers I mentioned, and lots of male singers of the later period, like Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour, you know, and they all involve really intense, you know, emotional relationships. This song is just incredibly candid, beautiful, honest, if I may, I just want to do a little translation here.

Aaron Gobler:

Sure, please.

Keith Jefferds:

The verse is, is very pretty. It says, you know, "speak to me of love, tell me all those beautiful things that you're telling before all that beautiful talk. That my heart never tired of listening to these these words that I adore, your voice caressing, the murmur, the trembling murmur kind of rocks me with it's beautiful ..." and think of this word story "histoire" ... " ...and despite myself, I want to believe it." Okay. So here's, here's what she says in the frame when it shifts to that little duh duh duh duh that added, you know, the little light to almost ditty like quality. "It is so sweet, my dear treasure, to be a little crazy. Life is sometimes so bitter. If one can't sometimes believe in illusions, you know, life is just too hard. The pain is appeased. And I'm consoled by a kiss the wound of the heart is cured or at least assuaged by, ... " ... and the word is "serment", ... "that reassures it. "Serment" can be translated as oath, but what she's really saying is, all your promises make me feel better. What to say? It's like, it's so candid about relationships. And yes, yes, I know, you know, what, whatever the relationship of men and women of the period, you know, it doesn't look pretty from this song. But frankly, a lot of people, you know, sometimes they do just want to be, you know, have reassurances that they know, they can't quite believe so, it's, it's powerful writing, and yet it's so lovely and fragile and, you know, like fine china or something.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And that's so much really on her delivery of the song.

Keith Jefferds:

I mean, in a way this is what you know, came later in American parlance to be known as a Torch Song. You know, I woman who carries a torch or a man who is, you know, mentally bound to an unattainable woman or something, again, the influence of female blues singers in America, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey like that, you know, talking unfiltered about adult relationships, you know, something nobody would discuss in, you know, Moon June songs of the early 20th century. So anyway, that's all I have to say. But yeah, the main thing about this, this song we just listened to is it just goes straight through me. Maybe it's like the lupins, too, it's just straight ahead and gets right to the point and goes for it.

Aaron Gobler:

Keith, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like things you may have thought about while you were listening to them that you haven't said or any answers to questions I didn't ask?

Keith Jefferds:

No, I think we're good. I mean, the one the one thing that I just think is fascinating, particularly in terms of the first one, you know, the Mary Martin ditty, you know, is is that sense of, you know, there was no American music until, you know, the fresh-off-the-boat or the disenfranchised started to make it the, you know, there was a self satisfied quality about the 19th century parlor song, you know, you know, going back to England, and, you know, someone sitting around the piano in the parlor. But then suddenly, boom, incredible stuff started to feed in, you know, from the fields, and from the Caribbean, you know, and from the shtetls.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Keith Jefferds:

And it was an explosion, you know, and Cole Porter, you know, he got away with, you know, taking this and running with it, you know, even though he was a, you know, a multimillionaire by birth. But anyway, he has this sense of synthesis. And the possibilities are just limitless. You know, you talk about fusion music. My God, the fusion that was happening, you know, starting, I would say, you know, late 1800s, but picking up after World War One.

Aaron Gobler:

Keith, thank you again, so much for your list. And for your time today. I had a great time. You know, hearing your stories and all your accidental little tidbits there. And, and I hope you had a good time, too.

Keith Jefferds:

I had a wonderful time. So glad you asked me.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, well, I'm, again, I'm delighted that you know, my nudging worked. And you've inspired me to nudge some other people who I want to have on the show. And to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing lists so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

Before we wrap-up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called "Dedications". If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody, please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 55 : My Three Songs with Kris Kaufmann

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 55. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs, chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Kris Kaufmann. And he's joined today by his wife, Joanne. Kris is a media specialist with a school district in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And Joanne is a marketing strategist with a large healthcare organization, also in Pittsburgh. Welcome to the show, Kris and Joanne, how are you today?

Kris Kaufmann:

Doing? Well. Thank you, Aaron. Thanks for having us.

Aaron Gobler:

It's my pleasure. You are the first couple that I've had on the show. So I'm looking forward to to some fun banter among the three of us,

Kris Kaufmann:

We'll do our best to behave.

Aaron Gobler:

I understand you're both involved in the music and voice worlds beyond what you do or as part of what you do. professionally. So do you want to speak about that for a few minutes?

Kris Kaufmann:

Well, sure. I should start out with Joanne and I are approaching our 33rd anniversary together. And we met at band camp when we were in high school. Okay, so Music has always been a part of our lives. Joanne plays a couple of instruments, I played trumpet in the band. And I've gotten back to playing guitar, which was something I started in first grade, but kind of gave up on by the time I started to play trumpet. So I'm really enjoying that.

Joanne Kaufmann:

And I play piano and my midlife crisis hit in my early 50s. And I started taking drum lessons. So I'm going to be a drummer in the nursing home band. That's when I'll finally get to some level of decent proficiency. Along with that, I do some voiceover work for corporate training videos, you know, the ones that are dry, and no one ever wants to do, but you have to. And I would say that, that music really is a huge part of our lives from having it on, almost constantly in the house, in the car. And then also we go to a lot of concerts. I know, this week alone will be at three different concerts.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm sure you really missed that during the height of the pandemic.

Kris Kaufmann:

We did, we'd have to get our concert fixed by listening to Margaritaville radio and Jimmy Buffett Live.

Joanne Kaufmann:

And then some of the artists that we follow. They were doing online stuff. So we'd buy tickets to their online pieces, groups like Chicago, they were doing weekly things where they just all be in their own homes, and they put something together, Toto did an online concert, lots of places were doing online concerts. And I think that's also when we found Quello the sort-of like concert streaming service. We could see some concerts that way.

Aaron Gobler:

So it's an It is great to be back in a real concert environment. Again, I'm sure it is. Yeah. And then one thing that intrigued me at the start was you mentioned you've met in band camp. So can you tell me of a myth and a reality about band camp is a myth that people have that you think and you can like dispel that myth?

Kris Kaufmann:

Ah, let's see. I would think one of the myths is that band camp the people who are there are kind of inept at what they're doing with as far as in our case, we actually were out at a college campus for our band camp. But we've also been out at what was once an old Boy Scout camp for the band camp.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Must have been before my time! I think that we're one of the myths of band camp is that it is always fun and you're always having a fabulous time. I will tell you that the band director we had, who we are both friends with still and he was absolutely awesome, but it was like eight solid hours of a crapload of work. It was it was unrelenting.

Kris Kaufmann:

It was it was rigorous. It was really rigorous! But the end result of band camp, although a lot of people think that it might be all fun and games, was that you? You really got to become a better musician and a better disciplined person.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yes, absolutely. So the reality is that it was grueling.

Kris Kaufmann:

So shout out to Frank T. Williams, III, our band director, well known in the drum corps world. Thank you, Frank for the inspiration you always gave us.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. So it's more like a boot camp than like a you know, a day camp where you're going swimming and doing archery and stuff. It sounds like ...

Kris Kaufmann:

Absolutely.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Ours was a sleepaway camp wasn't it?

Kris Kaufmann:

Yes.

Aaron Gobler:

And so you met there.

Kris Kaufmann:

We didn't really date in high school.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Well, I was still in high school ... old man.

Kris Kaufmann:

Well, we've been, we were friends. That's where we met and became friends before we began dating.

Aaron Gobler:

So you really share both shared a passion for, for music and trying to be your best, musically.

Kris Kaufmann:

Exactly. And happily, we like a lot of the same music, we have little different areas that the other doesn't venture into much. But we were, we always have the I don't want to say the name of the product right now because it will trigger her to say something in response. But we've always got those internet connected speakers playing music throughout the house.

Aaron Gobler:

It's cool that you both have is really intense interest in music. And I think it's normal that you have certain tastes that the other one, you know, may just not like. So thank you. Thank you for for indulging me on the on the band camp thing because I have really no idea what what really goes on just what I imagined. Kris, I understand you're a big fan of Christine Lavin, who is my guest on Episode 54, which is just before this one. What inspired you to be a guest?

Kris Kaufmann:

Well, after reading Christine's post, and talking about your show, of course, I wanted to listen to it because Christine was on. And I really loved the show. I thought it was great. I think one of the reasons that I wanted to submit some songs to this show was after listening to Christine's episode, I realized just how important music is to our lives. And these three songs that I picked out, have a real emotional resonance with me that there are three of the songs that and full disclosure here, you might hear me choke up a little while I talk.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Oh my.

Kris Kaufmann:

It never failed to elicit an emotional response when I listened to her. And they kind of each touch on three different points in my life. And the kind of music I was in at different points in my life with the songs.

Aaron Gobler:

And had you conferred with Joanne for this list, or this was your list?

Joanne Kaufmann:

No! Not at all!

Kris Kaufmann:

I sprung it on her; like I do a lot of things.

Aaron Gobler:

And does she know ... well I'm gonna read the names of the songs in a moment, but does she know what songs you chose?

Kris Kaufmann:

Yes, she does

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, it sounds like there's going to be a great story about each of these songs from what you just said, Kris. So let's look at your list of songs. They are the "Last Time I Felt Like This", by Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor, from 1979. "Land of Make Believe", by Chuck Mangione, from 1973. And "The Little Things", by Toto from 2015. You know, I'm eager to listen to the songs and I'm really interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's listen to your first song, which is "The Last Time I Felt Like This", by Johnny Mathis and Jane Olivor.

Aaron Gobler.:

Kris, Johnny Mathis has such a unique voice and this duet is it's really beautiful. And I understand it was featured in a movie I am eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list.

Kris Kaufmann:

Well, the movie "Same Time, Next Year" was a movie we saw early when Joanne and I began dating and it sort of became our song. And I really wanted to be able to share this with her on the show now, because when we did our wedding dance, it was supposed to be that song and I could not, at that time, find a copy of it anywhere to give the DJ. So we had another song that worked quite well. But this was really the one that meant the most to us. And coming up on 33 years, I figured I better get this one in now!

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think, too, what makes us so meaningful, and we really did want it to be the song for our wedding dance was we met when we were really young, like 14 and 16. And so as you might imagine, between that point, and to the point of getting married, there were a lot of coming together, and then we weren't together, and then we were together, and then we weren't together. And the movie that this was used in was about that it was about a couple who met for a weekend, once a year came together fell in love weekend's over, went home, live their lives until the next year. And you saw the evolution of them as this is very ephemeral couple. But you also saw how each of them grew and changed as individuals over that time.

Kris Kaufmann:

And that's what we've done.

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think it's very reflective of when we were younger, before we got married. And then still, to this day, we're still growing and changing both as a couple in individuals. So I think it's really representative of that.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you think if you had just heard the song without actually experiencing it in a movie, it would it would have a different meaning? Or it would have no meaning?

Kris Kaufmann:

I think it would still resonate.

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think it would for me because the arrangement is so beautiful and soaring. However, at the age that I heard this, well, I would have appreciated its musicality. I suspect I would have been like, Oh, my God, no. My parents listened to Johnny Mathis. And thats just not cool!

Kris Kaufmann:

And, of course, we've really we've grown to love well, we'd heard Johnny Mathis before since and we really we love his music.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

Back to the whole idea of the movie. As I was listening to the song. I had not seen the movie. So to me, it's just a song. And it made me realize that when you hear a song in a movie, it can often be played in the background usually, or as part of a montage or something. And so it can be very intense experience hearing that music and seeing the visuals.

Kris Kaufmann:

Absolutely.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Absolutely.

Kris Kaufmann:

And this song does a wonderful version of capturing the essence of the story and the voyage that the characters take

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yes. If you haven't seen the movie, check out the movie if you can find it. It really is it starts Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. And it is really an excellent movie.

Kris Kaufmann:

"Same Time Next Year". And it is a film of a Neil Simon play.

Aaron Gobler:

Nice. Well, thank you for that story that ... so this song has has really deep meaning here for both of you. And I feel bad that you couldn't have played at your wedding. And of course, like no one had it ... no one had it on their iPod or something??

Joanne Kaufmann:

Can you believe it?

Kris Kaufmann:

Yes, it was 1989. You would think everybody would have had their iPods

Aaron Gobler:

I mean, really, come on! We take for granted now. Just how easily accessible anything; any information or song or anything is available now. And and I mean, maybe you know, maybe you could've hired Johnny Mathis. But but you know ... that might have ...

Joanne Kaufmann:

That wasn't really in the budget!

Aaron Gobler:

That was not in the budget. You would have had like what maybe like one or two people at the wedding instead of bigger crowd, right?

Kris Kaufmann:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, thanks again for sharing that with me. The next song on your list is "Land of Make Believe" by Chuck Mangione from 1973. So we'll give that a listen, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Kris, I think most people know Chuck Mangione from his mega-hit, the instrumental song, Give It All You Got", which was the official theme of the 1980 Winter Olympics. You know, I honestly don't think I've heard any other track by him. Besides this one. I may be wrong. But I want to thank you for expanding my repertoire. And I also need to note that this is the short version, what one might call the radio edit. If listeners want to hear the full version, you may want to clear your calendar first. So Kris, what inspired you to include the song on your list?

Kris Kaufmann:

Ah, it has always been one of my favorites. This is the edited version of their performance that was performed. Live at the Hollywood Bowl. On the album of the same name, and the, the recording is fantastic. I mean, you really feel like you are sitting in the Hollywood Bowl in the audience. And that was always a bucket list item for me just to see a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, this song came on the heels of his other hit "Feels So Good", which was a big hit in the late 70s. And so it was part of that high school part of my life where I was a horn player in the band. And I was able to play Flugel horn, and I did a solo on another one of Chuck Mangione songs, but we didn't play this song in the back, okay, it encompasses all that hopeful outlook on life that that you have when you're in your adolescence, and it seems like the world is going to be yours. And between the recording and the stellar musicianship of the guys he had in that band. Grant Geissman on guitar, James Bradley Jr. on the drums, Chris Vadala on flute and clarinet and soprano clarinet. And then, of course, Chuck, Mangione playing Flugel horn, electric piano, and Charlie Meeks on the bass. Those guys were fantastic musicians. And the whole record was a big hit with with all the brass players in the band at the time.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I can imagine how inspirational it was to hear him because he was such a virtuoso at his craft and on the Flugel horn doesn't sound like it's an instrument that's used a lot. Although, I don't know.

Kris Kaufmann:

No, no. And it's interesting, too, he often plays it in a higher register than the Flugel horn maybe was meant to be played. But that also appealed to me and the other brass players because we were big fans of Maynard Ferguson and he had had that big hit the theme from "Rocky" on the "Conquistador" album. And then he had some great songs on the follow-up album, "New Vintage." And those were also, you know, in heavy rotation on all our turntables for us guys that were in the band playing trumpet.

Aaron Gobler:

So did you see his performance at the Hollywood Bowl or at somewhere else?

Kris Kaufmann:

Well, no, we didn't get to see Chuck Mangione at the Hollywood Bowl, but we did get to visit California a couple of years ago. And my sister, whom I had never met until this visit, when we went to California ...

Joanne Kaufmann:

They were both adopted as infants.

Kris Kaufmann:

... had gotten us tickets to go see John Williams conduct the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl. And so my first visit there at the Hollywood Bowl was a was being able to see John Williams conduct an orchestra with the sister who I'd never met but was separated from a puppet. And add those two things together just really make this song even more impactful every time I hear.

Aaron Gobler:

It is a very unique place to see a show with all the little picnic pods or whatever.

Kris Kaufmann:

it is, and the food was delicious.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yes, it was. It is a great venue.

Aaron Gobler:

The last song on your list is "The Little Things", Toto. So let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Kris, I feel like everyone has heard the song "Africa" by Toto. They of course, have a greater collection of hits and many lesser known songs. I hadn't heard this particular song before. Why did you choose to include the song in your list?

Kris Kaufmann:

Because it should have been released as a single! I get goosebumps at the end of that song. You think it's over? Here, Steve Pacaro sing that last line.

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think it's a great song, because it's grown up. We've been total fans for forever, since they came out in the late 70s since their first album, and so we've kind of grown up with them. And along the way their music has grown up as well. And when you look, this song is so great because it really kind of put you where you are now with with this stage of life that you kind of you know yourself. You know your partner, you know they're there for you. But on a larger scale, and I absolutely love this song. This is one of my top two songs from that album. But when you look at the album in its entirety, you can see how the band and has grown up and how they are reflecting the realities of our lives now, not when we were teenagers not when we were in our 20s 30s 40s. But where we are now as mature adults, more looking towards the sunset. It is just it is an awesome album and that song. It's just amazing. What gets me every time is I work from home and when he when Steve starts to sing about the sound of your key turning in the door, okay, we don't have keys, we all have keypads, or pads now, but when I hear that lock go [ makes lock disengagement noise ] to unlock when Chris comes home from work or comes to see me for lunch, it's like, oh, he's home. It's all good, now. To me, it kind of puts life in perspective in terms of what's important.

Kris Kaufmann:

And as far as being fans of the band like we are of Toto. What a treat to hear Steve Lukather are on acoustic guitar instead of electric guitar because he's just so good at everything he does. And to hear Steve singing, Steve Pacaro, because he generally either does background vocals or is simply on the keyboards and programming the synthesizers.

Joanne Kaufmann:

And going back to John Williams, Joe Williams, Toto's lead singer, is actually John Williams' son. Fun fact!

Aaron Gobler:

I mean, I understand the Toto started as like studio musicians ... It's interesting, Joanne, the point you made about

Kris Kaufmann:

They were studio musicians, they were friends from high school, they performed on different studio records here this song be more of a rich, mature song, as opposed to some and there. But they gotten together as Boz Scaggs' house band, and they actually toured with him. And from there, they of their earlier stuff. And I just have this feeling like when began as Toto when they were done with that tour with Boz Scaggs. they broke away from Boz Skaggs, then they must have really... you know, we think of the songs like "Hold the Line", and other songs that were that happened a long time before the "Africa" ... was technically just incredible songs; just really just such great musicians they are, they were putting out songs that were just so tightly produced, and just really intense. And and "Africa"is an example of just how complex and robust and beautiful song that just has ... is timeless ... that people you know, of every generation that are aware of it, right? Yes, it's a song like "Land of Make Believe", that every time you hear it will take you away,

Aaron Gobler:

They matured to a point where this song, the lyrics of this song are not just you know, something like "Rosanna" or something like that. It's this is actually a more meaning there's more meaning to this. And it's not just an ode to a particular person, but more like an ode or an observation of of life. And then stylistically, I've listened to the song several times before. Once I saw it on your list, I listened I had listened to it a few times. But listening to it this time, I did notice at the end, like you described, it changes. And you got Pacaro's voice really close to the microphone. Like he was kind of like he was standing back and just kind of whispering, you know, and then kind of like this time he's like, right in your, you know, right up there. And I my visual was like him actually saying that to someone's ear.

Kris Kaufmann:

Yes.

Aaron Gobler:

Like not just talking from across the room saying this, but coming up real close to them and saying and I don't know if that's what he intended. But that's kind of the feeling because it was really dramatically more intimate. You think that the softer voice would be more intimate but him being like, so close to the listeners ear had a different effect? I feel.

Kris Kaufmann:

Absolutely. And it gets me every time.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, yeah, really beautiful song. I really appreciate you including this song in your list. Is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections like things you may have thought about while we were listening to the songs or maybe answers to questions that I didn't ask you?

Kris Kaufmann:

I don't think so. I think we've kind of covered the, the emotional impact that this music has had on me throughout my life and continues to is just a small representation of the great stuff that Joanna and I get to listen to, and have listened to over the years. But these three songs really for me, they always stand out. They have an emotional impact for me.

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think one thing is What is the craziest thing we've ever done in terms of music.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, what is the craziest thing you've ever done in terms of music?

Joanne Kaufmann:

I think that would have to be. Kris was out mowing the lawn one day. And if you know Toto, you know that they were not backed in the US very much. And they didn't tour here much, but they tour in Europe a lot. So they announced the European tour, and Chris was out mowing the lawn one day, and I came out and I said, "we're going to Germany in March!" And he goes, "What?". I said, "we're going to Germany in March." And he goes, "Why do we have ...?" And I'm like, "we're going to see Toto." And he's like, "No, we're not." And I'm like, "yeah, just bought tickets." He's like, "how are we getting there?" It's like, "I don't know. I have a few months to figure that out. But we're going to Germany in March." No plans whatsoever ..

Kris Kaufmann:

Noo passports.

Joanne Kaufmann:

No, YOU didn't have a passport at that point. So it was just spur of the moment thing. It's like dammit, I am going to see them in Germany or somewhere in Europe.

Kris Kaufmann:

And part of the impetus for that is of as we knew that, and we had seen them here in the US, but they play smaller venues. and in Europe, they still sell out stadiums. So we wanted to be a part of that experience with our favorite band. And darned if we didn't fly to Frankfurt, take the bullet train to Stuttgart and see Toto at the Porsche arena.

Joanne Kaufmann:

That's the craziest thing we've done.

Kris Kaufmann:

And what's wonderful is there's a great online community of Toto fans. And we did spring for the VIP tickets.

Joanne Kaufmann:

We always do.

Kris Kaufmann:

We go all the way to to Germany. And we got to meet many of the fans who live in Europe that we've known online, but never met in person.

Joanne Kaufmann:

It's it's music, but it's brought us together with people ...

Kris Kaufmann:

from around the world.

Aaron Gobler:

Sure. Yeah, it certainly is ... you know, you've been to so many concerts and such that it really can just be a spiritually communal event or experience, you know, people are all singing along with the band or just dancing or whatever. It Yeah, it's pretty remarkable. And it really is great for the spirit. That's really cool that you, you kind of centered this excursion around this. And like you said, you meet new people, and especially meeting new people overseas is an experience in itself.

Kris Kaufmann:

Exactly. That's how music has really enhanced our lives. All of our lives.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Yes, yeah, absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

So I want to thank you again, Kris, and Joanne, this was a lot of fun. It was my first time talking with more than one person at a time. And it was it was a hoot. I really

Joanne Kaufmann:

We did. enjoyed myself. I hope you did, too.

Kris Kaufmann:

Thank you.

Aaron Gobler:

Good. Thank you again, for taking time to be on the show and to provide your list and all your stories.

Kris Kaufmann:

And thank you, Aaron, for allowing us to share this music with hopefully a new audience.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Yeah, I do. I do appreciate you being part of this project. And I hope some of your friends feel inclined to be on the show, I'd be delighted to talk to them. And Joanne, if YOU want to provide your own list, you're welcome to come back on the show and have and have Chris, you know, give the putting the color commentary for yours.

Joanne Kaufmann:

Okay, I can give you my I can give you my list.

Aaron Gobler:

Wonderful. Great, and, and then to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My three songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing lists so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make this somebody please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 54 : My Three Songs with Christine Lavin

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 54. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my guest is Christine Lavin. Christine is an award-winning singer-songwriter with over 30 albums going back to 1981 and as recent as 2020. You may know her through her catalogue of songs that alternate between comedy and emotional reflections on romance. Or you may know her as a member of the folk artist quartet, Four Bitchin' Babes, which she founded in 1990. Now of my 41 interview so far, she is my first guest whose main vocation is creating music, and I'm really delighted to have her join me today. And I just learned that she's going to be the emcee at this year's Philly Folk Festival in mid-August. If you have any great insights stories about anyone performing at the festival, Christine wants to know. Welcome to the show, Christine. How are you today?

Christine Lavin:

I'm doing great. I always had a late show last night at Birdland so I slept till two o'clock. So, so I'm good now.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Thank you for making some time today to be on the show. Christine, as you know, a previous guest, Gary Zenker included song of yours in his list. I understand he wrote you about the show. And you decided to be a guest yourself. So can you tell me like what inspired you to be a guest?

Christine Lavin:

Well, he sent me a link to the show the day that it was airing. And I thought, Oh, this is interesting. And when I heard that he picked a song of mine, but also a song by Buddy Holly. And then Harry Chapin, who are two of my absolute favorite performers. I felt so honored. That's why I thought Oh, I'd love to do this too. I'd love to tell Aaron what my favorite three songs are.

Aaron Gobler:

And and you are not one who is short on talking about songs and being inspired by other songs and writing about people who write songs. So this must have just really clicked with you.

Christine Lavin:

Oh, yeah. Over the years, I've done 10 compilations that showcase the, the songs by singer-songwriters, whose work I really admire greatly. And so but this gives me an opportunity to, to like, you know, just narrow all that down to three. And to tell ... it was so interesting listening to you, and, and Gary talking because it's like you were, you're both like dads with kids who happen to love music, and I just, I want to be in on this conversation.

Aaron Gobler:

That's great. I appreciate that perspective. I really try to make some kind of personal connection with my guests, and have it really be a conversation and discussion. And some guests really click with me, Gary being one of them, about our level of passion about music, and we can definitely geek-out about about certain things like Buddy Holly. So that was a lot of fun.

Christine Lavin:

Yeah, you know, and I just got to watch "The Buddy Holly Story", just very recently was on TV, with Gary Busey. And it was, it was so great to see it. And I remembered how was a huge deal in his career. But then his career, it didn't sustain itself. I know what he was great in that movie.

Aaron Gobler:

I'll have to check that out. Because I'm aware of it. But I've never actually seen it.

Christine Lavin:

Never seen it?? Oh. You should have date night with your wife. And you should watch it.

Aaron Gobler:

There we go. I mean, I know how it ends, right. I'm sorry. That's kind of dark.

Christine Lavin:

But that was one of the weird things that really connected me to that episode you did with Gary Zenker. Because when in 1975 ... when I first started performing professionally, I filled-in for a guy who walked off his contract and I got a phone call from this agent who said to me "can you be in Clear Lake Iowa in three days?" And I had to go look at a map and see we're Clear Lake Iowa was ... and Clear Lake Iowa also rang a bell to me, so I went to the library and looked it up. And sure enough, it was the last ... it was where Buddy Holly I think he did his last show there or his plane crashed there. But Clear Lake, Iowa is very much associated with the end of his life, and that's where I started my professional career. I wasn't sure whether that was a good sign or a bad sign. But I tried to take it as a good sign.

Aaron Gobler:

So Christine, before we get started with your song list, there's a question I asked every guest. For you, I think I know the answer. But the question I ask is like, how does music fit into your life, but I want to put a twist on that I figured like music is nearly all you think about. I may be wrong, but like, what do you do to take your mind off of your musical world? And or, like, how does music change your world for you?

Christine Lavin:

Oh, boy, I do think of music all the time. And because I live in New York, and now I'm actually living within walking distance of Broadway theaters. When I'm not working on my own songs, or, or my own concerts, I go to Broadway shows. And some of them I've gone to over and over as I study them, and what what makes these shows, click, I saw "South Pacific" 28 times, I saw the very first preview some of the very final final matinee on a Sunday. I saw it 26 times in between. And so my favorite show though, is called "The Drowsy Chaperone". I saw that 68 times on Broadway. And I saw four road companies too. I considered "The Drowsy Chaperone" to be the most perfect musical ever written. So if there's anybody listening, who's doing you know, like community theater, it's the perfect, perfect show. So when I'm when I'm not taking in my own music, I'm, I'm studying other people's. I am totally obsessed.

Aaron Gobler:

And do you think you'd ever be called up as an understudy? Since you know like the show so well?

Christine Lavin:

Wow, there is a scene, they were going to make a movie of it, okay, and they have this scene where the poor bride goes crazy. And she starts screaming about monkeys, "Where's my little monkey? Where's my monkey!?", and they have symbol-playing monkeys! And I asked, I became friends with Lisa Lambert, who's co author of the music. And I asked her that when they make the movie, can I be a symbo-playing monkey in that scene? And she said, Oh, wow. But I think it'll happen eventually. I may be too old to play the simple playing monkey, when that happens. But I'm hoping I'm hoping!

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, well, we you know, we can always keep these things in our minds and put positive energy out to the universe for you that that happens for you. And if all our listeners do that, maybe maybe you'll hear you'll get a phone call for doing that. So that's really that's really cool to be so close to you know, Broadway, like that going to Broadway show is like a real novelty for, for most people when you think about how many people would be interested in seeing lots of shows on Broadway. So that's really remarkable that you can that you can do that. I was thinking I don't know what show I ... for me it probably be like, I don't know, um, "Book of Mormon" or "Spamelot", or something that I probably could see multiple times. But that's that's really cool. The seeing some shows so many times. That's kind of great. Or just having all that at your at your doorstep. almost literally, right?

Christine Lavin:

Yeah! And I live in a building and top performers. There's a girl down the hall, who's in "Tina Turner, the Musical."

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, so Christine, let's jump into your songs. The songs you chose were "Secret Gardens of the Heart" by Judy Collins from 1973. "It Was a Very Good Year" by Frank Sinatra from 1965. And a song simply called "Breakfast" by Jane Godfrey from 2019. So Christine, I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs, and I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. First, let's listen to your first song, "Secret Gardens" by Judy Collins.

Aaron Gobler.:

Christine, this is really a beautiful song. And I saw it as a poetic testament to how we can always revisit people in places in our minds, even though there's people in places no longer exist. And I'm eager to know what inspired you to include the song on your list?

Christine Lavin:

Well, it was on an album called "True Stories and Other Dreams" that came out in 1973. And I was in college and 1973 I was an RA in a dorm. And I had my own room and I had a window with a window seat that faced west. And my favorite thing to do when I lived in that room was to put on this song by Judy Collins and watch the sun go down and and drinking a mug of hot tea. I just find the song just so beautiful. It's also a testament to how great it is to be an ageing songwriter, you have so much more material to draw from, you know that from you look back at your young years and you'll look at yourself as an adult. But the other thing about the song that really really gets me is the use of an orchestra with folk music. And there's very few instances I feel where an orchestra and a singer songwriter or folk singer-songwriter meshes so completely. And in that song they do. One of the ... I'll give you two examples that also do it for an entire album. One is Gordon Lightfoot's record, "If You Could Read My Mind". And it ... a guy named Nick DeCaro did all the string arrangements and that and it's a very, I think it's just a quartet they use on that record. And there's not a false note on the whole entire album. And a contemporary guy who does it. His name is Declan O'Rourke. He's from Ireland, and oh my God, he has got a song called, "We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea". And there is a video online of Declan O'Rourke, singing that with the Irish National Orchestra, which is, like, looks like there's maybe 70 members. It's a huge orchestra. [ Check out Declan's video here -- www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqlbnxEQo9M .] And it's an amazing song. And it's so lush and full and so interesting, what they do. But I have to say that Judy Collins back in 1973, with "Secret Gardens of the Heart", to me, it's the most perfect use of an orchestra with a singer-songwriter. And now I gotta tell you a true story about this song. Back in the 1990s, there's a radio man named Bob Sherman. He's just about to turn 90 years old, and he's on WFUV in New York City. He does a show called "Woody's Children". And he considers so many of the folk singers, singer-songwriters of today to be children of Woody Guthrie. But back in the 1990s, he was on WQXR, which is the radio station of the New York Times ... he was still doing is what his children show. But 95% of the station, played classical music. So he had all kinds of interesting people that he knew. And he liked to have these dinner parties and I got invited to one. And he lives up in Ossining, New York. So I took the Metro North train up to Ossining, and went to his house and there was this very boisterous party at a big table. The table was so big that you got to meet the people sitting around you, but you didn't get to meet the people at the other end of the table. That's how big the table was. So he told me that he knew of a musician who would be driving back to New York City after the party and I could get a ride so I wouldn't have to take the train back to New York. So when the party is over, we all say goodbye. I meet this musician, and he's driving back to New York. And I think there was a couple other people in the car with us, but I don't remember I was sitting in the passenger seat. And he was driving. And so I said to him, I said, "By the way, what's your name?" And he says, My name is Abba Bogin". And I thought, oh, that's an interesting name. And I said, "Are you a musician?" And he said, "Well, I'm a orchestra conductor and an orchestra and string arranger." And so he was one of Bob Sherman's classical friends. And I said, "you know, my favorite thing in music, is when classical music and singer- songwriters join forces." It doesn't happen all that often because it's so expensive to get a whole orchestra who can really afford it. But I said to him, "Have you ever heard, there's a song by Judy Collins called "Secret Gardens of the Heart? To me, it's the most perfect use of an orchestra with a singer-songwriter!" And he was so startled, he slammed on the brakes, and our car slid into a ditch. And he turns to me and he said, "That was me! That was me! I wrote that arrangement ... I conducted it ... that was me! I thought, What are the odds I would ever mentioned this song to the guy who was responsible for it. And he was so shocked, drove into a ditch. But luckily, we were in a ditch in such a way that he you know, he had, like, put the car in low, low gear, and slowly, slowly we worked our way out of the ditch and he drove back home, and I never saw him again. But how about that I met the guy responsible for that absolutely gorgeous arrangement around Judy Collins' song. [ Check out a bonus video, made by Christine, here -- vimeo.com/203732576 .]

Aaron Gobler:

It does give you faith about the universe working in unique ways like that. Right? Yeah. Maybe it's not a coincidence. You meeting Abba Bogin? Maybe it was destined to happen that way.

Christine Lavin:

Yeah. And I've never been to another dinner party at Bob Sherman's house. That's only one. Yeah. And that's the guy who gave me a ride home. So that was that was just an absolute thrill for me. And whenever I hear that song, I still get all teary, because it's just so beautiful. So gorgeous.

Aaron Gobler:

Wow, that's a great story. Yeah, it's kind of mind-blowing. It just makes automatically for such a great story.

Christine Lavin:

Especially because we drove into a ditch!

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, well, I mean, it would have been a whole different thing if you had like, had to wait overnight for someone to find you or something that would be much darker.

Christine Lavin:

And this was more than than 20 or 25 years after he had done it. So. You know, I love meeting ... you know, I once met the actor Paul Dooley, who is in one of my favorite favorite movies. The one about "Breaking Away", the bicycle movie. Remember that movie. And there was a scene where, where the young ... where Dennis Christopher, the he's the the young blond guy who thinks he's Italian is singing to the college girl up in her window. And it's it's cut back and forth between Paul Dooley and Barbara Barrie who plays his wife, you know, sort of wooing her his wife. And at one point, Barbara Barrie takes a flower out of her hair. And then he takes the pen-protector out of his pocket. And he does it as a grand gesture, which I always thought was so funny. And so when I met Paul Dooley, I said, "I gotta tell you something ... you do one of the funniest things I've ever seen in the movie, when you take that pen protector out of your pocket, he goes, "Oh, my God. That was me. I came up with that!!!" He said, "No one has ever mentioned that ever in my life!!" I said, "Oh, believe me, everybody. They love that scene if they haven't mentioned it, it's only because they didn't realize you came up with it." It's great to meet the the creators of things that we end up loving for our whole lives.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I think it also speaks to generosity of spirit, that you wish to share these such positive and impactful things for you with others, so that they can share in it too. And that what a reward to actually find out that it meant so much to the other person, like the person who you said, you know, who had been 25 years, since they had done that orchestration, and probably just blew their mind and like, you know, rocked their world. And they probably then talked about that story for the rest of their life.

Christine Lavin:

Oh, I hope so.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, we underestimate how powerful you know, certain remarks that we think are just kind of like something it's important to us. But it's not necessarily interesting to somebody else how that could be like these like, "oh my gosh" moments for others. Thank you for sharing that. Let's jump to your next song, which is a song by Frank Sinatra. It's one of his huge hits ... "It Was a Very Good Year", and it was recorded in 1965. Let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Christine, I grew up in the 70s in Philadelphia, and Sinatra music was inescapable, like one radio station had "Fridays with Frank" and then also on that same station "Sundays with Sinatra". I even ate at one of his hangouts in Hoboken in the 90s, where the jukebox only had his songs on it.

Christine Lavin:

Wow, a jukebox with just Sinatra songs. That would be like heaven for me.

Aaron Gobler:

He had so many memorable songs. So like, what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Christine Lavin:

Well, I think it's the most perfect song ever written. It's the rhyme scheme is so interesting. It's so simple. The kind of writing that I love the most is not the kind of writing that I do, because I use a lot a lot of words. My songs are ridiculously wordy sometimes. But I love when they've they're boiled down to their essence. And I feel like that's, that's the kind of song that I wish that I could write and I probably never will. But I, but that is my gold standard. And can I tell you a story about this?

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Please.

Christine Lavin:

Well, I was at an event this is maybe around 1999 or 1998, called "Monday Night Madness." And it was this variety show that was hosted by a woman named Angela LaGreca, who was the warm-up comedian on the TV show "The View", which is still a running show, but she's no longer part of it. And she at one point was pointing out people in the crowd who were, you know, celebrities. And that's always fun when you're in the audience to find out who else is there. And she pointed out, Ervin Drake, and she said, he's the author of "It Was a Very Good Year", I was like, oh my God, that's my favorite song. That's a gold standard of music. He's in the audience, I must talk to him. But of course, I didn't know I was gonna do this. And I had had like, two Cosmos. I was, I still drink Cosmos, you know, "Sex and the City" had such an effect on us. But that's the only effect it's had on me. But anyway, I found him in the crowd. I like work my way through the crowd, like a, like a salmon swimming upstream. And I found him ... and I said, "Mr. Drake, Mr. Drake, I love your song so much that I actually have a song where I mentioned how much I love your song!!!!" And it was clear that I was a little tipsy. And he was like, get away from me. Get away from me, you drunk girl. I mean, he wouldn't talk to me because I was I was being such a gushing fool and idiot. So the next day, I tried to find his phone number. This is back in the day when we still had, you know, the Manhattan phone books. Because I was told by the editor of I think American Songwriter magazine, that even though he didn't live in Manhattan, he was listed in the Manhattan phonebook. And sure enough, I found his address in Great Neck. And so I sent him ... I have a song called "Another New York Afternoon." That is about a deli owner who played nothing but Sinatra music the week that that Frank died. And so I sent him that album to his Great Neck address. And I wrote on the outside of the package, "Listen to track ten". That's where ... and I told him exactly where in the song I mentioned, "It Was a Very Good Year." So he, he got it. And he listened to it and he realized, Oh, she's a real songwriter. And she really loves my song. So he contacted me and we became really good friends. He recorded on two of my albums. But what the reason I bring up Ervin is because Sinatra told Ervin how he found his song. And, and to me, this is another story that brings radio hosts into focus because it's if you guys who love music so much, who play this stuff, you never know who's listening and whose life you're going to change. So what happened was Ervin Drake was asked to write a solo song for Bob Shane of the Kingston Trio. They were very hot at the time. And he needed a solo song. And so, Ervin took out his little book that he always had and you said ... a man reflects back in his life in terms of wine ... possible title "It Was a Very Good Year". So he sat down and in 20 minutes, 20 minutes!!!, he wrote that song and the next morning, Bobby Shane came in and Ervin sang it to him, but Ervin had his back to him because the pianos in the little offices were up against the wall. And Ervin didn't think he liked the song. And the guy who is with Bobby said, no, no, no, he likes it. He's gonna record it. So a couple years later, Frank Sinatra is working on his album, "The September of My Years", and he's driving from Los Angeles to Rancho Mirage. And Frank told this story to Ervin, Ervin told it to me, and I'm telling it to you!

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, okay.

Christine Lavin:

He's driving along. And the song comes on by the Kingston Trio. And Frank is listening. And he's getting goosebumps. And he's thinking, Oh, my God, this would be perfect for the "September of My Years." Who is this? He didn't hear you know who the group was or anything. So he starts looking for an exit off the highway. And he goes off an exit, and then he sees a diner. So he parked his car, he runs into the diner, and he says, "Can I use your phone?" And of course, the diner is going to bedlam. Frank Sinatra just ran in here, asking to use the phone. And so Frank calls the radio station and the radio DJ says, "Oh, my God, is this who I think it is??" "Yeah, yeah. It's Frank Sinatra. Tell me who did that song about, you know, in terms of vintage wine, it was very good. Yeah. Who was that?" And the DJ looks and says it was the Kingston Trio. He goes, "Yeah, but who is the writer?" Sow, the DJ looks and he says "Ervin Drake.". So Frank writes down The Kingston Trio ... Ervin Drake ... gets back in his car ... diner all calms down ... and he finds that song and he includes it on "The September of My Years." Gordon Jenkins wrote that amazing arrangement. And for people who really like to do things interesting if you take the the Kingston Trio recording and play it back-to-back with Frank's they are in the exact same key. And it's the exact same arrangement song except with Kingston Trio, it's one guy singing, one guy playing guitar, one guy whistling, and then it goes into that amazing arrangement by Frank, and there's a recording I once heard on Jonathan Schwartz's radio show, where he played Frank doing "It Was a Very Good Year" live very early on in the life of that recording. And Frank says, "Here's a folk song for you kids!", because, you know, Frank was always trying to stay hip and he was always trying all kinds of new things, some successful some not. He thought Ervin Drake was one of the Kingston Trio. And that's why he's he figured it was a folk song. But then he became friends with Ervin, and Ervin spent many, many hours clubbing with Frank and, and he has another great story about Frank. I just have to tell you, Frank came into New York. This is years later ... the song's a huge hit, won all these Grammys and everything. And he's good friends with with Ervin. So he says "Ervin, come on over to the hotel. Yeah, we'll go out clubbing and we'll have some fun!" So, Ervin shows up. And then Frank says, "You know what, first thing I got to do, before we go out ... gotta get my shoes shined. Because Frank, you know, he grew up in Hoboken, New Jersey, and he was a poor kid. And for men of a certain age and certain era, having their shoes shined and looking really bright and sharp. That meant a lot to them. So they go down there in the lobby, and there's a young African-American kid there at the shoe shine. So Frank sits down, and Frank says to the kid, "Kid, I want you to give me the best shoe shine you've ever given anybody in your life. And I mean it!" And the kid says, "Okay, Mr. Sinatra". So he starts working on Sinatra shoes, nice, shining them up, and he just does the great job. So Frank looks at his shoes. At the end of that he goes, "Kid, this is the best shoe shine I ever got. Tell me? What's the biggest tip you have ever gotten?" So the kid thinks really seriously ... and he goes "$100". So Frank said,"oh, yeah??", and he counts out $200, gives it to the kid and says "here ya go, kid!" The kid goes "Wow, thank you Mr. Sinatra!!". So Ervin Drake and Frank Sinatra start walking toward the front door of the hotel. And then Frank turns around, he says, "Kid, by the way, who gave you that $100 tip that I just doubled?" And he said "You did, Mr Sinatra!" So it's so great to know Frank was a great tipper. And, and when when he performed and your songwriters were in the audience, he made such a big deal about them, he always picked up the tab, he had them stand and wave, and songwriters loved him for it.

Aaron Gobler:

It's always so wonderful, remarkable, when creators try to build up and support other creators as opposed to really trying to compete with them. And it sounds like that's what he was, he just had such an admiration for for people who were so creative and, and did excellent work, that he would identify them and try to, you know, shine light on them instead of just trying to take up all the light.

Christine Lavin:

Yeah, you know, Frank really, I mean, he understood that he was born with this amazing voice, but he was not a songwriter. And so he really went out of his way for songwriters whose work he really loved. And, and he appreciated them deeply. And he was also very, very interested in a promoter of integration of, of orchestras and bands because there was a lot of times where were the the Black musicians you know, how do you separate entrances and things like that? At hotels and clubs and Frank would not allow that not on his watch. So he was he was a good man... he was a complicated man, let's face it, you know, but I still I still love that recording so much and you got to play it back-to-back one day with with the the Kingston Trio and you'll just, you just have to imagine Frank's driving from LA to Rancho Mirage and hears it on the radio and, and then everything that follows.

Aaron Gobler:

He drove off an exit not into a ditch, but he has one of those like "aha" moments, right? Well, thank you for that story that put a big smile on my face. And I honestly thought you were gonna say that after he got the best shoe shine he was going to ask the shoe shine to give Irvin just not as good a shoe shine so that his shoe shine look better. That's where I thought this was gonna go. That's where I thought it was going.

Christine Lavin:

Well, I'm glad it didn't go there. Oh, Aaron ... there's one more thing I have to tell you about the song. "It Was a Very Good Year." There's a wonderful singer in LA named Tierney Sutton. And one day, Ervin was out in LA and he bumps into her and she says to him, "Are you the guy who wrote 'It Was a Very Good Year'?" And he said, very proudly "Yes! I am!" And she said, "You bastard!" He goes, "Why? Why is there a problem?" And she said to him that she's over 35. And his song went from when I was 17, to when I was 21, two hours, 35 to a now the days are short, she said, "Look, buddy, I'm over 35 and I don't think I should be getting ready for the autumn of my life, you got to write some new verses." So believe it or not, Ervin did first he wrote one that started out "When I was 52." And here he is sing it in his own voice

Ervin Drake (recording):

When I was 52, it was a very good year. It was a very good year for traveling the globe on supersonic wing, seeing everything, as a worldwide view, when I was 52. [ Check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=op8dZHlMyrk for more! ]

Christine Lavin:

But then another couple years went by and he realized that he should write even another verse. So he wrote this one which starts "When I was 89." [ Check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=op8dZHlMyrk for more! ]

Ervin Drake (recording):

When I was 89, it was a very good year. It was a very good gear for living the life of one constant fling, Sinatra's "Ring-a-Ding-Ding", Jack Daniels instead of red wine, when I was 89.

Christine Lavin:

Thing is, no one has ever recorded those two verses, because he never did anything official with it. Except he sang it at my book publishing event back in, in 2011. at Barnes and Noble in Manhattan, but I just love the fact that he at the end of his life, he lived to be 95. And he realized that yeah, life doesn't end at 35. I'm so glad now that I'm seventy years old, I'm so glad that that there's verses reflecting the lives of older people. And I think Frank Sinatra would have loved that.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, and it's understandable that he didn't want to change the song. But I wonder if he did ponder ... you know, why it ended at 35? Yeah.

Christine Lavin:

You know what? Frank never heard those two extra verses. Because Ervin didn't ... He wrote it, it was just like a year or two before Frank died. And Ervin didn't play it for him. So he did. He never knew that there were more, but maybe some adventurous singer who's as adventurous as you are, Aaron, with your love of songs, will make those new verses an official part of the song. We can only hope. I love the "89" verse where he says "Jack Daniels instead of red wine."

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And just like, like you mentioned much earlier, just just the style of the verse. It's just very unique. The way it starts and ends and it's not , justs, you know, rhyme after rhyme or something. It's got a very interesting pattern. It's very poetic, and very poignant. Yeah, it's like you said it's kind of condensed. You noted that your songs are robust in the word department ...

Christine Lavin:

(Laughing) That's a nice way of putting it!

Aaron Gobler:

... and that and this was much more economical, like maybe they were being charged by the word or something. So so he took out all the unnecessary words, you know.

Christine Lavin:

By the way, for any songwriters who might be listening. Ervin Drake was really good friends with Johnny Mercer who wrote "Accentuate the Positive." I think he wrote "Moon River." I'm not sure, but ... Johnny Mercer started as a great, great songwriter and Johnny Mercer said to Ervin Drake, Ervin Drake said to me, and I'm telling you, Aaron, and any songwriter who's listening ... if your song does not rhyme, exactly, it's because you're not finished working on it! And that will get so many songwriters upset. Who rhyme words like time and mine. We all do it. We've all done it, but I can actually look at my songs and know if I wrote them before I knew Ervin, or after I knew Ervin, because after Ervin, I would never use half-rhymes or assonant rhymes, as he called them. And it's it's, it's the gold standard, you know it's songwriting is a craft. And if you don't have your songs rhyme exactly, it's like leaving threads hanging off a dress that you made or leaving or not sanding down furniture that you built. You want it to be perfect. So set that as a gold standard.

Aaron Gobler:

Christine, the last on your list is "Breakfast", by Jane Godfrey from 2019. And I want to thank you so much for adding this song to your list because it was so fun to listen to. And it just it just a wonderful, wonderful story in the song. So without further ado, let's let's enjoy "Breakfast" by Jane Godfrey.

Aaron Gobler.:

Christine, I thanked you before for including the song, and I want to thank you again. I'm so glad I was introduced to it. And if for what it's worth, I had a previous guest that included the Three Stooges theme as one of his three songs. So this definitely is a real poignant, meaningful experience, someone who actually got to meet them. That's incredible. What did you choose to include the song on your list?

Christine Lavin:

Well, when I first heard it, it was sent to me by another radio guy named John Weingart, who does a show from Princeton, New Jersey called "Music You Can't Hear on the Radio." And he just ... when he heard it, he kind of knew I was gonna like it. And he sent it to me, and I just flipped over it. The thing is, it's Jane Godfrey singing it, she wrote it, she sang it. But it's her husband's experience. She made it a homemade video for it. And the very beginning it says for John, and that's the name of her husband. And I grew up in an all boys military school. And so I was very familiar with the whole military thing, and how how gruff, military men could be, you know, even with their families. And it was just so sweet to hear this story. And one of the things I love about the song, because it just could have ended with the chorus. But the little tag ending she puts on it, she sings "he was gruff and unfiltered, and did himself in two packet day cigarette. But he had his ways to show me he cared. And that helps when it comes to regrets." And the song leaves you off in a whole different place. And I think anyone listening to it will probably think of their own father, and in ways that he disappoints, because fathers always have things that they will disappoint their children, but that in ways that they really came through. And it's just such a wonderful thing that he did. And it seems so out-of-character. And such a wonderful memory to have. And then for his wife to set it to music, I just think is the most wonderful thing.

Aaron Gobler:

As you're saying that, you know, being a dad, part of what's expected out of you, I felt is you should be stoic, and be focused, and not be too emotional. And sometimes you don't know how to communicate with your kids about how you feel about them or that you know, love them in a different way that a mother's love is and a father's love can be very different. And that there definitely was a side, the father sounds like he really wanted to show his love and appreciation. And this seemed like such a strong way of doing that and obviously touched his son.

Christine Lavin:

Yet, there's a lot of women who don't get the Three Stooges. And I think in some ways, I'm one of I don't, I don't like violence or you know, physical humor. But, but when you hear that song, and you realize, Wow, this was a real connecting point for a father and son. So maybe I should rethink my attitude towards the Three Stooges. Maybe I should watch them more and catch on to what, what men find so funny here.

Aaron Gobler:

There's probably research papers about that. It's a good question, because I don't think it was. I wasn't a huge fan of them. But I always enjoyed watching it. I think I just enjoyed the comedic timing and I was probably too young also to appreciate that in order to pull off a lot of that stuff, you had to really be good at what you're doing, and really be convincing and not just looking like a doofus. They've ... all three of them were from Vaudeville, and were all comics on their own before they started In the Three Stooges, so they look very convincing as, as kind of like idiots, but it's all a craft. So if you look at it as a craft ... yeah.

Christine Lavin:

Yeah. And also, because when I met Jane and her husband, John, when they were in New York, last year, it was so sweet, because he said that the Three Stooges kept emphasizing, "Don't do this, don't do this. Because it, you really can hurt someone if you try to poke them in the eye with your fingers!" And so they had a lot of explaining to do when they do live events.

Aaron Gobler:

This is also a great example, this song, of telling a story through song, but the song also being not just the person's voice singing, but the choice of the instrumentation. So we got like a mandolin and a clarinet. Those are the ones I hear. And the clarinet seems to be kind of more of a light hearted comedic kind of sound, I think maybe of a Woody Allen, using his clarinet in his movies and such. And then the mandolin seems to be perfect accompaniment for storytelling, it just seems like there's just enough instruments in it.

Christine Lavin:

Yeah, I think they spent a lot of time getting it just right, because also the tempo changes are so great when they sing the different sections of the song. So there's a lot of skill that went into that. Jane Godfrey is someone who is really not well known outside of her little community, or well, she's lived in in Missouri. And I think that she should have a much bigger following. Her website is JaneGodfreyMusic.com. And if you visit it, make sure you click on the video that she made, it looks like an old fashioned television set, cover shot. And, and she made it herself. So it also it fits perfectly with the music and the whole sentiment too.

Aaron Gobler.:

I really enjoyed the video, it definitely adds even more to the song if that's possible. [ Check out the video for "Breakfast" here -- www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWNy2RbmKF0 ]

Christine Lavin:

It's because it's so different when somebody like Lady Gaga makes a video. And of course, she has big directors and producers and, and it's somebody else's vision. But the video is also Jane's and John's vision. And it's got some nice pictures of John's dad in it ... she will be so thrilled. I can't wait to tell her about this!

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you again for for including that. And I mentioned before I generally don't go and seek out music. So this is like a little adventure for me when I see songs on someone's list that I don't know. And then I get to explore them. So so thank you for that.

Christine Lavin:

Well, thank you for being so adventurous, Aaron.

Aaron Gobler:

So yeah, this was that was a lot of fun to listen to. Is there anything else, Christine that you'd like to share about your selections, things that maybe you thought about while we were listening to the songs or maybe answers to questions I didn't ask you?

Christine Lavin:

Gosh, I'm trying to I think you did a very good job. asked all the right questions. I hope my answers made sense!

Aaron Gobler:

That's awesome. You know, I want to thank you. This was a lot of fun. And it was such a delight getting to talk with you. And you are the most famous person that I've interviewed so far.

Christine Lavin:

Well, you need to get out more! That's all I can say.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Christine Lavin:

Maybe some of your listeners could suggest to they would really like to hear from and then we can find out if if I have a connection ...

Aaron Gobler:

That would be awesome.

Christine Lavin:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you again, Christine, for your time today. I really appreciate you putting together that list. And I want to say to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list, so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

Before we wrap-up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called Dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody. Please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 53 : My Three Songs with Joel Shertok

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 53. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my guest is Joe Shertok. Joel is a chemical and materials consultant, and his wife Susan was my guest on Episode 45, in which she performed her three songs on her accordion. Welcome to the show. Joel, how are you today?

Joel Shertok:

I'm very fine. Aaron, how are you?

Aaron Gobler:

I'm doing well. Thank you. Joe, you know, I'd like to know more about your profession. Can you tell me what you do?

Joel Shertok:

Absolutely. I'm a chemical engineer by training. I graduated from the Cooper Union in 1971, a school in New York City. Princeton University in 75 with a doctorate and went to industry, and was a practicing chemical engineer for over 40 years. And what I did was something called Process Research. And when people think of research, they see a guy in a white coat going through a very pristine lab. But my role was to go into chemical plants and try and optimize their processes. So I traveled to Puerto Rico to Europe, a variety of places, looking at first Union Carbide plants, that was my initial job with the idea of making them more efficient, more profitable, etc, etc. But my role eventually became something called "scale-up and commercialization", which is to say, okay, a chemist has a process, it's all on glassware, no beakers, retorts, things like that, what you see in science fiction movies. They can make, oh, 20 grams of a product. And they go to a customer and the customer absolutely loves it. It's the best thing they ever, ever seen, except they need for 440 pounds, a drum, to make a customer trial. And the chemist has no idea what to do. And my job was to go and work with the chemist, first take the process into a pilot plant, we would make that 440 pounds. And then if the customer really liked it, you go into full commercial production, we started making tons. And that was my career. I worked in chemicals. I worked in biotech, I worked in materials, but the basic theme is always the same, take a process, make it commercial and make money on it. So I did that until 2014. And my company at that point, invited me to retire because I was 66.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Joel Shertok:

And I said no thanks. And they said "yeah ... you oughta". So I said okay. So that day, I became a consultant, president of Process Industries Consultants in Newark, Delaware. And I've been doing that ever since. And I've worked a great deal with "green tech", a lot of sustainability. People who are starting a company have a process, but don't know what to do with it. And I go in, and I help them scale that process up and make them a success.

Aaron Gobler:

And are you on working on a contract basis, then for one company for a period of time? Or are you working with many companies?

Joel Shertok:

Many, I work for as many as eight at a time. Okay, I used to get paid by the hour or get a retainer, depending on what the assignment is, as great because every day is different. And the companies are all very different people, different personalities, different processes. So it's lots of fun.

Aaron Gobler:

And are you doing this from your from your home? Primarily?

Joel Shertok:

Yeah, outta my bedroom!

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. So that was something that you started before the pandemic?

Joel Shertok:

Oh, yeah, really, to be perfectly frank, the pandemic really didn't have much effect on me. Most of my stuff is out of my house, there's not that much traveling. So I know who is there and of course, the steer by networking meetings quite a bit. But as far as you know, clients not a problem. You know, Zoom is a wonderful invention.

Aaron Gobler:

Joe, I'm so glad you offered to be on the show. And I imagine Susan has been suggesting this to you for a while. What ultimately made you decide to be a guest?

Joel Shertok:

I just enjoyed talking about music. I think I have some insights that perhaps are not typical. And I love talking. So how can you beat that combination?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I can't argue with that. So before we get to your song list, can you tell me like how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? As it usually in the foreground or the background of each day?

Joel Shertok:

It's a very fascinating story. When I was in elementary school, my elementary school had a wonderful man named Marvin Fleishaker. He taught fifth grade and sixth grade, and he formed a full philharmonic orchestra of New York street kids. So, in the fourth grade, you auditioned. And if he liked you, you were offered a place in his orchestra. So I auditioned as a fourth grader and we're talking 1958, 1959. And he said, Okay, you're good enough. We'll take you in. And what does every good Jewish boy play? The violin or the clarinet? Right? That's what they played.

Aaron Gobler:

Right!

Joel Shertok:

And Mr. Fleishaker, said, "nah, everybody plays clarinet. Everybody plays violin. Joel, you're gonna be an oboe player!" My parents and I said, what's an oboe? And he showed us an oboe, which was nothing that I had ever seen before. And I became an oboe player. And I joined the orchestra as a fifth grader. And it was a great experience. Now, I will tell you, unlike my wife, I have no musical talent at all. It was it was very clear very early on. I was not ... actually I did go to Carnegie Hall. That's a whole different story. But what Marvin Fleishaker actually did, he formed a really professional philharmonic orchestra with with kids, fifth and sixth graders. And we did stand-alone concerts, we did Broadway shows that were disguised to avoid copyright problems, and it was a great experience. And doing that I was able to join the Bronx Oboe Orchestra and Band, because oboe players were very, very rare. So although I was miserable, having no talent, if you have a choice of two people, guess what? You've got no choice in the matter. So if I play clarinet I never would have gotten in. As an oboe player. I was welcome. I played "Wonderama", which was a Sonny Fox show on channel 5 in the late 50s. I did go to Carnegie Hall, the Bronx Oboe Orchestra and Band played Carnegie Hall.

Aaron Gobler:

Nice.

Joel Shertok:

So that was my introduction to music. And as a result, I became interested in radio, music, Rock 'n Roll in the 50s, the 70s, the 80s, 90s. Now, if you want my opinion, the music today is not worth much. But that's because I'm 73 and an old, cranky old man. And my kids think my tastes are horrible. But my parents thought my tastes are horrible. So it just continues from generation after generation. And music is not the most important thing in my life. I like to listen, and I'm really much into the 70s and 80s. A little bit of the 90s. 2000s ... not so much. And anything since 2010, I don't understand.

Aaron Gobler:

You have children?

Joel Shertok:

Yean, I have an older son, middle daughter and a youngest son ... which is terrifying!

Aaron Gobler:

Did your children also adopt some of the music you were listening to?

Joel Shertok:

Not so much. My younger two kids were not that into music. And my son was very into obscure bands. He loved ska music, and groups that I could not understand that The Chainsmokers. I listened to them. And he said, well isn't this great?! And I said, I don't hear much.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's really fascinating. Like, why when you're growing up with your own set of music ... what about the template or something or the something about that music doesn't jibe with the newer stuff?

Joel Shertok:

Absolutely. The 70s and 80 music, I think it's fantastic. They scratch their head and say, Boy, it's pretty absurd. What do you see in it?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. What I find fascinating too, is that there's some stuff that just bubbles up through through all of it. Like there's certain Beatle songs and some just some classic songs that continue to keep bubbling up to the current time that there's still ageless songs. That's fascinating to watch songs continue to be ones that just generation to generation continue to be played and enjoyed.

Joel Shertok:

Well, I think what has to what your life is at that particular time. For instance, I was in graduate school in the early 70s 71, to 75. And it was an incredibly, incredibly intense time. I mean, going from undergraduate to graduate school, was a whole different experience. And one of the songs I was playing when it first started was Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae." And then when I hear "Maggie Mae", I'm once again, the first year graduate student in 1970. And same thing, there's a whole bunch of songs during that period. The minute I hear them, boom, I'm back.

Aaron Gobler:

If you go back to like episode, one of the Radio Show, I start talking about how how music has that transportive or, you know, and even transformative quality. When we hear it, we can be taken back at some other place, just like for some people, it might be a smell, or a sight of something. And it is pretty remarkable how ... a certain song will come on, and I'll remember like having my newspaper route when I was, you know, in my early teens, something like that. But I mean that case, it's that song that you're hearing again, you haven't heard in a long time and it brings you back, but I'm also thinking of songs like certain Beatles songs that just continue to this day that younger people will play or recognize or such. So there's certain ones that, that that kind of bubble up from 50s 60s 70s, they keep coming up, then we're in like the 2020s. And kids today still, some of them they recognize those songs or those songs or redone, remade or sampled or other kinds of things into the stuff that listening to.

Aaron Gobler.:

So Joel, let's jump into your list of songs, the songs you chose today we're "Jump" by Van Halen from 1984, which also is the name of the album title. "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People from 2011. And "Semi-charmed Lie" by Third Eye Blind from 1997. So I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's start listening to your first song, "Jump" by Van Halen.

Aaron Gobler:

Joel, I used to be a huge Van Halen fan. You know, I think I saw them at least three times in concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia in the 80s. And I'm pretty sure I still have a T-shirt from one of those concerts. I don't think it fits anymore, but I'm pretty sure I still have it somewhere. So I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Joel Shertok:

Well, the three songs I chose have a common sub-theme, okay. And the one it called fake-out songs. And they're called fake-out songs because you listen to the beat, and the music and sounds incredibly cheery and upbeat. I mean, how could you not find "Jump" incredibly cheery? But if you analyze the lyrics, it's really quite dark. It's very, very dark. It's very, very dark, because ... they're two interpretations. In one case, the interpretation is the singer has had it. He said, his back's up against the wall up ... against the record machine. And he's thinking of jumping. He's thinking I might as well jump. I might as well jump. I might as well jump. And below him is a crowd yelling, jump, jump, jump. It's written ... oh, it's very dark. It's incredibly dark. In fact, a radio DJ got into serious trouble because somebody was threatening to jump off a bridge in the local area. And he inadvertently played "Jump" on the radio. And he got an awful lot of flak for that. Unintentional, I mean, it's certainly not deliberate. When you hear that song, you say boy what a cheery upbeat ... now if you're not paying any attention. If you like shopping in a supermarket and they played in the background, or you're not really paying attention, you hear the beat, you hear the music. So it's a pretty cheery, upbeat song. But the reality is no, it's somebody's thinking about jumping. And the crowd below encouraging him to jump jump. The other interpretation, which is a little less dark, is he's confronting somebody who doesn't want to jump ... is not the singer, not the person. It's a third party. And that third party wants to jump. And the singer saying, hey, you know, you think you've got it bad. I've had a worse ... now that's some of the lyrics ... I've had a pretty bad, my back's up against the wall. But if you're that depressed, and you want to end it all, hey, go ahead and jump. He's being facetious. He's trying to talk the person out of it. It says if you've had it, okay, go ahead. Go ahead and jump, jump, jump. And maybe the crowd below is also encouraging that person by saying jump, jump jump, but in this case, the protagonist, the singer is trying to talk the person out of it.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay. Yeah.

Joel Shertok:

So you have two different interpretations. One's really dark, and one's only semi-dark. But the dark thing is this people encouraging that person to jump and you've seen it? I mean, how many times have you seen somebody on a building and people below want a spectacle. They, want that guy to go down to for their own entertainment. Now, the other thing I find this interesting, a bunch of different reasons, is first of all, I think this is Van Halen, at the height of their power. Really the height of that of, of Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing and David Lee Roth's singing ... they broke up a year afterwards, and also it's the beginning of what's called the so called "cheap video era". If you look it's pretty, you know, production values are so-so, it's just, David Lee Roth jumping around. You compare that to something like say the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" by Bonnie Tyler, which is incredibly overproduced, it is over the top. And that was about the height of the way, way way overproduced music video. The reaction was Van Halen and that basically started a whole new trend to hey, let's keep this cheap. You know, video shouldn't be the shouldn't be the message. The record's the message?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. I mean, MTV came out in 81. And this album came out at the very beginning of 84, there was just floods of videos out there, and people were kind of looking for ways to outdo the previous video production. And this video is is basically them just hopping around on a stage, which is, I mean, a large part of what they did were, were concerts. And like I mentioned earlier, I had seen them so many times in concert, and they were to spectacular concerts. Yeah, this has seemed to make a lot of sense to make a short film of them in a concert type of setting.

Joel Shertok:

Save some production costs!

Aaron Gobler:

Exactly. Then your discussion about the lyrics and the meaning really underscores how, at least for me, in a lot of cases, and I think a lot of music listeners, is that we might even sing lyrics to a song, and or not even know all the lyrics. But, but not even, like, ever consider what was what the meaning of them were, you know, if someone were to read that as a poem, without the music, you might have it, your brain might have more of a chance to kind of really digest what was being said. And that when it's to music, like you mentioned, your brain may not wrap itself around the lyrics at all, and have no idea what was the intent of the song I did have. My sister was on this show a long time ago. And we were listening to a song by Shawn Colvin, when you actually take the lyrics and break them down, you realize there's a lot going on in the words, but you really have to listen to it and pay attention to it. And I think with a lot of songs, we just don't do that.

Joel Shertok:

Well, you tend to go with the beat. And you don't tend to listen closely. There's an acoustic version out by by another artist made maybe 10, 20 years later, was a lot more obvious because it's an acoustic guitar doesn't have all the percussion. And you can concentrate much more on the lyrics. And there the dark intent is a lot more obvious. The perfect example is, you may be old enough to remember remember "Dominique", by The Singing Nun, way back way back when it was in French as a cheery note, "Dominique." But people didn't realize the historical context was the crushing of the heresy in southern France that left that 100,000 people dead. Which is the danger of singing a song in a foreign language ... you don't know what you're singing!

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's, yeah, especially in a foreign language, you wouldn't, you wouldn't know what you're singing. And again, if it rhymes, or it has a certain meter or beat to it, you might not really understand what exactly it is. And then see, you said that the other songs that you chose have a similar type of deception or another interpretation. That's a good segue to your next song, which is from 2011, "Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster The People, we'llgive that a listen and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Joel, when I first heard the song, it really struck me for like, how different it sounded from a lot of the pop music I'd heard before. Maybe it was like the staccato delivery or the odd lyrics or the voice of the singer or some kind of combination of those. What inspired you to include the song on your list?

Joel Shertok:

Again, it's a fake-out song. I remember the first time I heard it. I was up in Rochester, New York. And I played my radio in the morning when I got up no 4:30, 5 o'clock in the morning. And they began to begin getting like a heavy rotation. And I heard it and I said, Well, what a cheery song, and oh, blah, blah, blah, of course when you play it at 5:30, it's kind of low and you can't really make out the lyrics. So like a very cheery, upbeat song. I happened to speak to my daughter about it, and she said Dad, it's about a school shooting. Have you listened to the lyrics? And I said, really? So the next time I heard it, I turned up the volume so I could actually hear the lyrics. And my God, it was about a school shooting. And if ... unless you listen closely, it's hard to catch. It's hard to catch because the the initial lyrics are filtered, very heavily filtered. The beat is really upbeat. At the end, they whistle. It's like Andy Griffith. Remember the Griffith Show? They include the theme song at the end, they whistle and unless you listen very, very closely, it's going to escape you. So I included that because it's a fake-out song ... cheery beat beat. I mean, listen to the bass line. Now it's pretty nice and the whistling is pretty nice. And the lyrics are musical and they come together. But how much darker can you than a school shooting? You know basically, it's going into the mind of maybe a 14, 15 year-old and he's basically going crazy. He's living under extreme pressure. His father works long hours, gets a frozen dinner when his Dad decides to come home. And the Dad's stupid enough to leave a gun out with bullets, and the kid's envious because his classmates can afford the pumped up kicks, maybe a Nike from the 90s, that's 175 bucks, you could pump up you can use air to pump up your, your sneakers to get more. And he can't afford that. I mean, that's a lot of money. And 20 years ago, it was really a lot of money. And he's resentful. And he's probably being picked on. He's a cowboy kid smoking cigarettes. And you see the type, I mean, they exist in every school. And this guy cracks up and goes after his goes after his schoolmates. And there's no remorse, there's not a single bit of remorse, you better run faster than my gun, and you better outrun my bullets. I'm going to get, I'm going to make it up to you what you've done to me for the last X number of years, or what I perceive you've done to me for the last couple of years.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm sure it may be either pleasing or maybe displeasing to some artists when they create something that has a dark thing, dark thread to it, that they see people really enjoying it. And not and not realizing how dark it is, it must be kind of odd to to have people experience your music in a way that you did not necessarily intend or expect.

Joel Shertok:

Well, I think in this case, it's deliberate. I mean, the case of "Jump" in the case of "Pumped Up Kicks", and the case of Third Eye Blind that will we'll listen to later, it's deliberate. It's not a matter of oh, I wrote something that's misinterpreted. One song that I think about is Michael Penn's "No Myth." That's a song that's very consistent, the beat's consistent, the song is consistent. There's no hidden message. It's about people being lonely. You can choose to write a song and make it very clear what you have in mind. Or you can write a song in which the intent is disguised. And that depends on on particular take on art.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Joel Shertok:

Now the other thing that's interesting is, the video that goes with this is absolutely horrible. I don't know what the record company was thinking. But the video that they made to go along with "Pumped Up Kicks", is miserable, has nothing to do with the song. It's random scenes. And my son had an interpretation that the group became famous too fast. And the record company didn't have time to turn out a first-class video. So they kind of settled. But there's an awful lot of videos that are sort of DIY do-it-yourself that people have made, and those are pretty, pretty dark!

Aaron Gobler:

You're saying others have made their own videos to the song?

Joel Shertok:

Yes, yeah. As opposed to record company. People took it upon themselves to stage a video type of song, and some of them are very well done. And there's no mistaking what the theme is.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, so that's inspired people to do their own visual art to the song.

Aaron Gobler.:

So let's jump into the third song on your list, which you just mentioned a moment ago, by Third Eye Blind, "Semi-charmed Life."

Aaron Gobler:

Joel, I feel like the Third Eye Blind sound epitomized the musical feel of the late 90s. I mean, it's not grunge necessarily. It's not Dave Matthews' type folksy stuff. And it's just just raucous enough, you know? What did you choose to include this song?

Joel Shertok:

Well, again, it's one of those fake-out songs. When you hear it. It says what like bubblegum pop? Right? Nice, cheerful, upbeat, nice percussion background. And again, if you listen to it with half an ear when you're shopping or when you're just listening to the radio, while you're having breakfast. Can you think of a more cheery upbeat song? I mean it's bubblegum, bubblegum pop, you know, maybe a girls group from the 19, mid 1980s, something like that. And then we listen to the lyrics. I mean, it can't get any worse. You absolutely cannot get any worse lyrics that from a lead singer ... is the guy's ultimate degradation. He's on some sort of drug, it's cocaine or crack or something. And he is experiencing the end of his life. He knows that he knows he can't go any lower. He's as low as he can get. And the only thing he could think about is I need another hit. I need another hit to get me through this life. So although he's degraded, he just wants to degrade himself some more and can't think of any other way out of the trap he set for himself. He's obviously with a woman, and the woman means something to him. And they're having sex, but the sex doesn't mean anything to him because he's too high to appreciate it. And he thinks back to a time when he was more innocent. He talks about like the the sand between his toes. And you've seen that ... you see little kids absolutely delighting no walking on the beach. Just the feel of the sand is enough to keep them happy. And he remembers that time when he was more innocent, and he can enjoy life enjoy the simple things. And he realizes that he's ruined that he is beyond that point. To the point where his girlfriend said Goodbye. He says I don't care. I don't care. I want my other hit. I want to hit to make to get me through his day. And to worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. It's just incredibly dark. And again, it's a very serious message of human degradation wrapped up in a real cheery beat. What the group wants ... he wants you to get through the apparent cheeriness that some people show and look at what they're going through in their life. You know, it's the old Jamaican saying you hear a lot, "you can't tell the roof is leaking until you go inside the house." And it's the exact same thing with this, you can't realize the guy's degradation from this outward cheeriness. He's in bad bad shape. And the chance's pretty good, he could be found dead sometime. He knows it. He absolutely knows it, and can't do a thing about it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that is definitely definitely very dark. Especially as you as you identify all those parts of it ... and listening to it, just like you said, with like, one ear, you might hear certain terms and expressions and stuff like that. And even the title doesn't necessarily speak to exactly what he's talking about. It does make you wonder, though, you know, when the artist wrote this, was he basing it on on experiences he had or you know, an imagined situation?

Joel Shertok:

I suspect it's imagined. I think people who are that low or that addicted are no longer creative. I mean, you've seen it quite a few times where rock stars go down that road of alcohol and drugs, and some can survive, but most don't, most lose that lose their voice. So I suspect this is a cautionary tale, based upon maybe their experience with a friend or something they've witnessed out in the road.

Aaron Gobler:

Now so Joel, in this thread or theme, then, are you listening to songs with a more discerning ear? Now, when you hear any song? Are you paying more attention to the lyrics or just some songs?

Joel Shertok:

I guess you have to ... but my problem with today's music is they don't make the same demands. The songs, the the authors, the writers, the lyricist, the musicians, they make demands on their on the listeners. Hey, drop what you're doing and listen to what I'm saying. It's not what you think it is. Like reading a very dense book with lots of symbolism. It's like reading "Moby Dick." Herman Melville uses lots of biblical allusions, and situations to illustrate his examples of life on a whaling boat. Got to think about what you're reading. Same thing with the songs you have to think about what you're listening to and get past the surface stuff. Today's songs from what I've seen, I don't think they make the same demands in my opinion ... as a cranky old man. Though the sad songs are sad songs. The happy songs are happy songs. You don't hear the same surprise twist. The only thing that maybe comes near is maybe The Killer's "Mr. Brightside." That's what the same thing. But even that's now relatively old compared to what you hear today. I think the fact that there's much more streaming and the financial model has changed so much, that there's more of a premium for keeping it bland and not not being controversial.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, the whole streaming thing changed the industry in a lot of ways and what kind of material you would put out ... if it wouldn't be an album any longer. It would just be individual songs or single

Joel Shertok:

What it is, is back in the era, we're talking about tours, were a loss-leader. They were there to basically sell records. And now, tours are the moneymaker. Because no one's making money. You make pays on listen. So it's now on spectacle and trying to get eyes on to get people to come to rock concerts. And you may not get that, you know,with controversial songs.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I see. I see your point there. Yeah, it's the whole landscape has has changed a lot. And I don't know what the next. I mean, records and tapes. And those things were around for generations. So I don't know what's after streaming. I mean, there's always going to be in in-person performances. Yeah, I'm curious what, what's next?

Joel Shertok:

Well, the problem is to go to rock concert now is a major investment in cash.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Oh, that's true. Yeah.

Joel Shertok:

Five bucks. got you into the Fillmore East. Yeah. Not the moneymakers. They are being squeezed for every last penny, because that's how these guys are making a living now. So that by definition, limited, it's limited demographic, you know, in the 60s 70s, no matter where you were, you could probably afford a ticket. Now. It's becoming an upper-class phenomena because who can afford the 70, 80 bucks to get in.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's very true. Yeah, I think that's for the worst.

Joel Shertok:

Oh, much for the worst. It's like baseball. Baseball was now a major, a major expense if you want to go see get a ticket.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's a very different landscape.

Joel Shertok:

So yeah, so I think the songs are very instructive, both of the era that they came from, and how the music industry has changed. Be it lyrics or be it the videos. Now even the videos are much much different than they used to be.

Aaron Gobler:

Joel was there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like anything else that you thought about while you were listening to a particular song, or an answer to a question I haven't asked?

Joel Shertok:

No, I think we've hit hit the high spots, I think that these pieces are representative of their time. I think today "Jump" wouldn't get very far. It's a much different world. I think Foster the People" will be as popular today, as it was back in 2011. Because the situation has gotten even more acute over the last 10 years. And Third Eye Blind? It's a toss-up. It's a toss-up there again, of a period of time when when addiction was incredibly dangerous, and people were dying in the streets of crack. You don't see that much anymore. People are too distracted by their other problems. And COVID, COVID has knocked things off the front page ... for two or three years. And people are more concerned about dying of a virus than of drug addiction.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, Joel, I had a great time talking with you about music and it's obvious that you have a deep, deep love of music and certainly a deep interest in lyrics and just in the power of song, especially in being able to mask dark themes with you know, bobby music and I want to thank you for our discussion about that because it's made me kind of examine some of these ... certainly made me examine all these these three songs, and be potentially aware of other songs that might have that same kind of contradiction per se. I hope you enjoyed yourself today.

Joel Shertok:

It's been fantastic. I really appreciate it.

Aaron Gobler:

So thank you again, Joel. I appreciate you putting your list together and taking time to speak with me today. And I want to say to my listeners if you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot Show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make this somebody please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 52 : My Three Songs with Susan Mashiyama

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 52. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Susan Mashiyama. I've gotten to know Susan through a ukulele class she teaches. And I've learned a lot from her in the past couple years, I have to say, although I must admit I don't practice as often as I should. Welcome to the show. Susan, how are you today?

Susan Mashiyama:

I'm doing pretty well. Thank you, Aaron. Thanks for having me on your show.

Aaron Gobler:

Susan, I'm so glad you decided to be on the show. And I'm really eager to talk to you about music in a deeper way than just what we discussed and play in our ukulele class. And through the class. I've learned that you play several instruments and are very talented vocally, too. Can you tell us about some of the projects that you've been So Susan, what is your Patreon site so that our listeners can working on?

Susan Mashiyama:

Sure. Yeah, thank you. Thank you for asking. I teach music and I play music. And I'm a singer-songwriter, and I arrange music. So my main instrument now is the Celtic Harp. So that the Celtic Harp is the original harp, and it's also called called the Folk Harp or Lever Harp. And so you've got these levers on the side and you flip them to create the accidentals, so to make a note, go up a half step or, or come back down. And so I've got some things that I've been doing with the Celtic Harp, I guess the main project that I have going on an on an ongoing basis as I have a Patreon site. So I make music videos, because like, I really got interested in the idea of how to create music were there were visuals that helped to express the feeling of the song, or the music that you're playing. What happened was, I started to make these videos and they were taking a lot of time and effort. And I was about to give up on them on this YouTube channel. And then a follower of mine, he suggested that I start a Patreon site. And he said, he thought that some people would be really interested in backing me, so I started it, and you just make I make a music video once a month, and then people pledge, you know, like from $1, and up a month. And in the beginning, it was like, Oh, it would pay for, you know, like a violin string. But it was exciting to help people who are really, it's such a different feeling when you know that there are people who are actually interested in your music and are following it. And they're giving some money like for your videos. It's it's a really nice feeling. And so it's really motivated me to finish some projects that I haven't you know, been picking up on like, kept him on the back check it out? burner, and it's motivated me to compose more. Anyways. Oh, thanks for asking Aaron. It's if you go to Patreon so patreon.com and then just do a search for a Susan's harp songs. So it's, it looks like Susan sharp songs. But it's Susan's harp songs, no punctuation,

Aaron Gobler:

Susan's harp songs (susansharpsongs) on Patreon. So check that out and become a patron of Susan's and, and help support her craft. Thank you so much. And I enjoy seeing your videos that you share with us on the ukulele class.

Susan Mashiyama:

Thank you. So that's that's one thing. And I guess the other things that I've been doing, I've been writing songs and I teach several instruments. I teach piano and beginner violin. I played fiddle. I got really interested in Irish fiddles, they learned how to play in that style, and harp, I can't remember what I said guitar or ukulele. And I also sing, so I play at in different events, and I played a couple of churches in addition to the teaching,

Aaron Gobler:

That's fantastic. I guess similar to learning languages ... as somebody learns a lot of languages they get to internalize patterns and just methods and the science of it. Do you find you can pick up a new instrument relatively easily or do you find that there's a serious learning curve? Just for any other ... any instrument you pick up?

Susan Mashiyama:

That's a good question. So for certain certain instruments, there's a lot of crossover, for example, the piano and the harp, the theory of it is really, really closely related. So they're, they're both kind of like linear, the strings go from C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, it's, it's all in a line, and there's a separate string for each note. And on the keyboard, there's a separate key for each note. So all the theory of that was really something I was super familiar with. But what was really different, was the technique is completely different. So on the piano, your hands are above the keyboard, and you've got gravity to help you make the sounds. So you can play you can pound away on the piano, with gravity helping you. And on the harp, your hands are suspended in the air. So you have to pull on the strings. And in the beginning, I was teaching myself, I started developing carpal tunnel ... yeah, my wrist started hurting quite a bit, because I had improper technique. So I had to go back and learn the proper technique. And for several weeks, I felt like I couldn't play at all. And so it was kind of distressing, because I'd gotten to the point where I felt like I had some facility, but then my wrists were hurting. So I had to try to relearn the technique. And yeah, it was just like, trying to walk again. But then once I got that, it, it really helps with the with the pain ...

Aaron Gobler.:

... and then playing other kinds of stringed instruments, like, you know, guitar, ukulele and such. I mean, I'm guessing they're similar ...

Susan Mashiyama:

Very similar. Yes, yes, yes, if you know, the guitar. So I learned that guitar first. And that's got a six strings and the ukulele only has four. And the chord shapes are pretty much the same except or you have two fewer strings to deal with on the ukulele. So it's really, really, really nice. And the names of the chords are different, but the shapes where you put your fingers and arrangement of your fingers on the fingerboard are the same, except you have to fewer strings to deal with. So you know, one chord might have only one finger, you have to put down so it's, it's really, really great for people who are learning music, but other instruments, like wind instruments. Yeah, that's completely different. So I tried to pick up a wind instrument, I love the flute, oh, my gosh, I just you know, I had been wanting to play the flute for years. And I thought, well, I'll pick up the penny whistle. It's a little whistle that they use in Irish music. And I guess originally, it actually cost a penny. So it's, it's not that expensive, even today, but it's a lot more than a penny. But anyway, you play this thing. And it's kind of like a recorder. But it's got a higher, more delicate sound, unless you play it really loud. And then it's really shrill. But it's really, yeah, it's really different. The fingering is totally different from a stringed instrument ... actually I went to a music camp, and I was playing this really well-known Irish song called The Butterfly on it over and over. And somebody asked me to stop! And I said, What the heck, this is a music camp.

Aaron Gobler:

That's funny.

Susan Mashiyama:

It just, it just shows that it's, it's really different ... some of the different instruments have such different technique. Yeah, so going from one to the other can be very challenging.

Aaron Gobler:

Music has a theory, and there's certainly a science to it, too. And so I'm just wondering if you having that basis, it does give you an upper hand on picking up some kind of new instrument, just because you already have internalized some of that music theory.

Susan Mashiyama:

Oh, definitely. Because of the my piano background, I started with piano. And that's a really fantastic foundation for understanding music because in the music, you've got two hands and the upper part of the music is expressed on the treble clef, the upper clef with your right hand plays that usually, and then the lower hand is the bass clef. In some instruments, you only see one clef or the other. So if you start with a piano, then you learn how to read music on both cliffs, you have a better understanding of like, a bigger range of notes. And you can play chords on the piano. So there's a lot more music theory that's covered on the piano, that might not be covered with some of the other instruments like the wind instruments don't really play chords. And like the stringed instruments, like the violin, you'll play limited chords, you know, with two or perhaps three strings if you're really good. So yes, yeah, so a lot of the theory is really transferable to understand how chords work, understand, you know, key signatures and the timing, how music is written down on sheet music, for sure.

Aaron Gobler.:

Yeah. And one of the things you said at the very start was about the piano having each you know, each actual physical key that you depress being a note and that it's very easy to like, especially with gravity, like you mentioned a moment ago to use the piano and that does seem like an excellent instrument for introducing music. For the reasons that you described. Certainly, if you tell someone to hit the G, or the middle C or something, it's right there in front of them. It's not like they've got to look at what string, they got to pluck and what finger they have to depress.

Susan Mashiyama:

Or like with the violin, they don't have any frets. So one of the most challenging things is to try to play in tune.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, thank you for that discussion. I have not played enough instruments really, or studied an instrument. I played clarinet in fourth grade, like a lot of people have. But not really to internalize much theory, but only to say that I know how I've listened to a lot of music. Like you heard in the ukulele class, I'll try to end a song in a kind of rock strumming pattern that no one ever taught me that, but it just seemed like that was a natural thing to do. Because I've heard it so many times.

Susan Mashiyama:

Yeah. And we we really appreciate your rock style. It really, it's, it's so it's great. Yeah. That's what music is one of the best things about music is you can express your personal your personal style, and it really livens up the class. So seriously, we all appreciate it.

Aaron Gobler:

It's so exciting. It just kind of not mind-blowing, per se, but it really is, kind of sets off, you know, some fireworks in my brain, at least when I'm actually producing music. Because I've listened to music so much over my life. And it's meant so much to me, that to actually generate something is really is this really cool. And it just really sets off little sparks in me.

Susan Mashiyama:

That's terrific. Yeah, that's, that's what that ukulele is so great at. My parents were born and raised in Hawaii. And you know, my family's lived in Hawaii for a long time. So we've always had a ukulele around. But my first instrument was the piano well, aside from the voice, so I remember singing for as long as I can remember. And so there was a big emphasis on classical music. My mother really wanted us to learn how to play the piano. And so we learn classical music, me and my brother and my sister. But I'm really starting to appreciate the ukulele. Because it's so easy for people who don't have a musical background, to learn how to play and within a few lessons, they'll be strumming and singing along and creating music. And it's something that it's like with the violin, you know, there's such a steep learning curve, you have to learn how to hold the bow, you have to learn how to hold the violin, you have to learn how to finger and then you have to learn how to make it sound somewhat, you know, not like a cat screaming but on a on the something like the ukulele it sounds pretty nice right away. And people can really express their own, you know, whatever it is that they want to stay with. It is very expressive. There's a lot of versatility with it. So yeah, it's it's really great to see people developing on this instrument and just being able to, you know, play. And I think that it lifts a lot of people's spirits ... to be able to play music.

Aaron Gobler:

For me with ukulele, I feel like it's somewhat of a full circle in a way that my, my Dad went to, I believe he may have been in Hawaii and he brought back ... I have a brother and a sister. He brought back three ukuleles for us when we were little kids. And me being a tinkerer, I actually removed half of the back of my ukulele and fastened a speaker to the hole ... and is there some official name for the hole in one of these instruments?

Susan Mashiyama:

Sound hole, I think sound hole.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, yeah. So I covered the sound hole with a speaker from Radio Shack. And I hooked up a little phone like, you know, a headphone jack to the side of the ukulele. And then I plugged it into this makeshift amplifier and I had, and I glued the piece of wood back and I had basically an electric ukulele. I still didn't know how to play it, you know, but I wouldn't make lots of noise with it. So I feel like it's it's really great that I am actually able to, you know, play a real ukulele.

Susan Mashiyama:

Wow, you sounded like you're very inventive.

Aaron Gobler:

I mean, Radio Shack, I could talk, I could just do a whole podcast about Radio Shack. So not like anybody would want to listen to that except other people who work for Radio Shack!

Susan Mashiyama:

So the ukulele or it's can also be pronounced EW-kew-lay-lee, if you pronounce it, the way that you would in the Hawaiian language, was introduced from Portugal in the late late 1800s. And the Hawaiians just fell in love with it, and they adopted it as their own. So it's actually not technically a traditional Hawaiian instrument, but it is closely closely associated with it. And my parents taught us when we were young, you know, a number of popular songs that they knew when they were growing up, and I know Aaron knows this, we we pretty regularly try to play "Aloha Oe", which is a song written by Queen Lili'uokalani, who was the last monarch of Hawaii, before the country was illegally overthrown, unfortunately. And after Hawaii was overthrown, the Caucasian people who were in power, they wanted to erase the Hawaiian culture. So they actually banned Hawaiian languages language in the schools. And before that, Christian missionaries convinced the Queen at the time to ban public performances of the Hula. So I've heard stories where people were afraid to speak Hawaiian, and they were afraid to dance the Hula, because they thought they would get caught and punished. And so now it's a complete turn-around, there was a big renaissance. And now it's actually mandated in schools that they have to include education about Hawaiian language and culture, which I think is wonderful. We definitely try to sing some wind songs in the class. And it's been great. It's really interesting. In the ukulele class, I've been able to choose music that I've just wanted to choose and do research on the background. And so just learning more and more about different kinds of music.

Aaron Gobler.:

And to that, I wonder if we can find some Portuguese songs that were originally played or, or created?

Susan Mashiyama:

That's a good idea. Yeah. Oh, that sounds wonderful. But anyway, it's a it's a great instrument. And I think I really started to appreciate it. It's so compact and portable. So I was hauling my harp around. And then the next day, I had to run off to class and I was holding my ukulele, or ukulele with two fingers. Yeah. And I was like, Oh, this is great. This is such a portable instrument.

Aaron Gobler.:

It is a very portable instrument. Susan, I have, I have a couple questions I asked everybody. And we kind of already talked a little bit about this. How does music fit into your life? Do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or background of each day? I mean, you probably kind of answered some of those already, but you have anything else you would say about how it fits into your life? Or is it your life? It sounds like it is your life?

Susan Mashiyama:

Um, it's a really big part of my life. Yeah, I also for the other things that I do for work, I also do, I'm a writer as well, so I do medical writing. But it's yeah, it's a huge part of my life. So I'll be it just seems like I need to hear music. So I'll have it on in the background often. But on the other hand, sometimes I feel like silence is musical in and of itself. I think giving your ears a rest is also something I think is good for you musically. It's sort of a funny thing. I remember when I was in some sort of music program, and one of the leaders was warning us not to overpractice. So you know, you can kind of get too entrenched in something. And so I guess the idea is like to give your, your mind and your ears a break. And that can actually help you musically. So I love to have music on a lot. I love all kinds of different music, and I love playing music and singing. But I also really appreciate breaks. Like I'll take breaks where I just don't have any music on at all.

Aaron Gobler:

So let's just jump right into your song list. The songs you chose were "The Mummer's Dance" by Loreena McKennitt from 1997, the "Star Wars Main Title" theme composed by John Williams and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra from 1977. And "Baba Yetu" by Christopher Tin, as performed by the Soweto Choir, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 2005. Now, Susan, those are the longest introduction titles that I've had on the show.

Susan Mashiyama:

Oh, do I win a prize?

Aaron Gobler:

No, but but I just want to mention that. So I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you that start listening to the first song, "The "Mummer's Dance" by Loreena McKennitt.

Aaron Gobler.:

Susan, that's a beautiful song. It felt both simple and robust at the same time, and I listened to it with headphones, and the sounds of the way they're mixed together really make it a banquet for my ears. I'm eager to know what inspired you to include the song on your list.

Susan Mashiyama:

I included that song on my list because it was such a different sort of music for me to listen to. I mean, it sounded kinda like folk music, but it had this like groove or more pop beat to it. And it had these instruments that I'd never heard of before, and it was just kind of a revelation the way that it mixed, like storytelling and all these like different sounds and it was so lush and beautiful. You know, it included a lot of Celtic and I guess mostly Celtic themes and myths and I guess some English as well. Loreena McKennitt is of Scottish roots. And I believe she's Canadian. She was born and raised in Canada. But I remember, like listening to some of the music, and thinking that must be like, that must be a newfangled electronic instrument. And then when I looked it up, no, it's like a really old, Middle Eastern instrument. And it just has this really resonant, gorgeous sound that was really different to me. And some of the different patterns that she played. It was just so imaginative. It felt like it was from a time from long ago, but it was from a, it was like from a culture I'd never had heard of before. And it was it was basically a fusion of different sounds Western and Middle Eastern, and, you know, folk music. Yeah, just so imaginative, so beautiful. And plus, I've gotten a really high soprano voice and a lot of pop music ... the range is right where my voice breaks. So it's really uncomfortable for me to sing it. But Loreena McKennitt has a really nice kind of voice. And so I could sing it. And so I would just, I would just listen to it and sing over and over the songs. And they actually, I think there were two versions of this, there was the remix, where they added a much stronger pop and dance beat. And that was a huge hit. So I just remember, I used to go to these dances, where people would just do like kind of freestyle dancing. And when they would put the song on, everybody would just start flying across the floor. They got so inspired by this music. And it was it was great just felt like you're transported in a way. And I think that that helped get me really interested in more Celtic music, which I was super absorbed with for a really long time.

Aaron Gobler.:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. That was a really it really was kind of a feast for the ears.

Susan Mashiyama:

Yeah, the percussion and different kinds of music that hurdy gurdy never heard of it before. And that just, just like I said, it was just such a new experience to be hearing all these different mixes. And it sounded so good together.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, thanks again, for including that. Let's jump to your next song, which is very different than this, the previous one, and it is the "Star Wars Main Title" theme. And it is composed by John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra. So let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Well, Susan, that's a real rush. I mean, this tune is almost universally recognizable. Whenever I hear it, my mind immediately fills with visuals from the original Star Wars trilogy. I can imagine scenes of the movie for when I hear certain parts of this composition ... what is what inspired you to include the song on your list?

Susan Mashiyama:

Oh, gosh, this music. Just amazing. I mean, it was so just seems so perfect for this film. And I think like a lot of people have a huge fondness for the original Star Wars film and you know the other films as well, but especially the original one, it was just so dazzling, you know such a groundbreaker visually. And then the story really caught my imagination. And my sister and brother and I were kind of obsessed with this movie. And we went over and over and over to the theater to watch it. And we all of us loved the music. And so we saved up our money. And it was a double LP. So it was quite expensive. We each had to have our own copy. And it was a good thing too. Because we want we listened to it over I listened to you for hours. And we probably would have worn out our copy if we didn't have our own or own sets ... you know, as as somebody who is brought up playing classical music, and I played in Symphony Orchestra and I played and I sing in the chorus. And so I was exposed to a lot of classical music, and to hear this kind of style with this epic film and to capture, like the motion and the imagination wildly just different instruments. Yeah, it was just so wonderful. You know, I just loved like listening to the different instruments and the way that John Williams he wove into the tapestry like the different themes for different characters or did friend's scenarios, different times and places. It was just so so beautiful. And it seemed to fit the space theme so well because it was another time another place. And so it felt really otherworldly. And at the same time, because it was classical music, it sounded very familiar. And it also felt really human. Like it just sounded like it spoke to a lot of common humanity that we have. And I think this is when I started to really love the sound of the cello. That part of [Susan mimics sound of cellos] I mean, oh, just gorgeous. And the London Symphony Orchestra. Wow, they did such an amazing job. I mean, it was such a long time ago, but it just I'm still I'm still have so much fondness for it. And it's still It sounds so beautiful to my ears and just like the variation, all the different sounds and the themes, and yeah, it's just great. Amazing musicianship on it.

Aaron Gobler:

So let's jump into the last song on your list. "Baba Yetu" is a song that was written by Christopher Tin and this recording was performed by the Soweto Gospel Choir. So let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Thanks so much for introducing me to the song I found that kind of inspiring and uplifting. It's really kind of exciting to hear it ... kind of reminded me a little bit of like "Prince of Egypt." And you know, I looked up the translation of the Swahili and it's about exalting the Heavenly Father and asking for His forgiveness, mercy and guidance. And it certainly seemed to share themes with with the Lord's Prayer very closely. Why did you choose to include this song?

Susan Mashiyama:

Oh, I love this song. So much. I was just kind of browsing on YouTube. And I came across this song. And it was performed by a choir, I believe in South Africa. And so I thought that it was a you know, either composed as a traditional song or incorporated traditional African / South African music, or perhaps is composed by a modern African composer. It turns out that as I did more research, and it took me a while to realize that it was actually a modern composition, written for a video game, which I thought was hilarious, because up until then, you know, I really didn't know too much about video game music. And apparently, they are really investing in the music. So they're hiring really good composers and really fine instrumentalists for the music. And so some of the music is great. This was actually composed by Christopher Tin, so he's an American composer. He's of Chinese descent. It was also really nice because I'm a person of Asian background. I don't know very many Asian American composers. I feel like I might know more composers who are Asian, you know, from Asia. But this is like an American composer of Asian background. And I just love it so much all the so many things I love about it. In particular, this is my favorite version. So it's the Soweto Gospel Choir featured on it. Oh my gosh, the vocalists are just amazing. This is not an easy song. You can hear the male soloist, it's got quite a huge range, he has to be really rich and deep on some of the lower parts and then discover, you know, the high part. And he's got to really open up and still be full and rich up there that high on those high notes. And the way that it passes back and forth between the men's section and the women's section. It just feels so balanced and full. And I love it. There's some like parts where that like a female will go ahead [Susan yells out] and just love that. So you hear this different texture of the women's voices in the men's voices. I mean, it's just epic, just so sweeping, but it has a lot of subtlety as well. And and the instrumentalists are amazing the percussionist, and the Royal Philharmonic, I think is the is the orchestra that's playing. And it's so it is the Lord's Prayer that was translated into Swahili, and, you know, not having much familiarity with languages from Africa. I just was struck by the beauty of it. I think that each language has its own sound. And each one is so beautiful in and of itself. And so I was looking at a performance of it on the internet. And I was looking at the comments that people had posted on this and just people from all around the world were writing comments on on how much the song meant to them and what a wonderful reaction that it engendered in people. And then it was really nice because I saw quite a few comments from people who are from Africa. And they were saying that they thought it was wonderful to hear foreigners. So that the version that I saw it was a group that were mostly white musicians who were performing it. But there were people from Africa who were saying they really loved the way that they had, you know, actually took the time to study the language so that they pronounced it so well, and just made them feel really joyous when they when they saw that, you know, to have that kind of care and attention put into that is really nice. Yeah, it just learning a different language, it opens up your world. And even though this isn't, it's not written by somebody who is of African descent, but the idea is that it's about honoring different civilizations and different cultures. And yeah, I just, I just love it. And it makes you feel like dancing, it's so joyous. And I think also, you know, the fact that the text of it is, you know, it's got Christian religion is, is the basis of it, some of the best things about religion is that it really can lift your spirits. And there is a lot of good and a lot of beneficial things that have come out of the best parts of religion, I feel, you know, they have been kind and taking care of people who may need help, and just feeling lifted up and feeling, you know, spiritual and rejoicing in this kind of higher spirit. So that I feel like that's what's expressed in this and I just love it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I totally, I totally with you on how religion can be so spiritually uplifting, and to engender and bind us together in acts of kindness. Like, you know, like you were saying, it's a very beautiful song. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that.

Susan Mashiyama:

Yeah. If I could just say, say one other thing about this song. Well so, my grandfather was a Buddhist minister, and he actually became the Bishop of the Shingon Buddhist church in Hawaii. So I was brought up in the Buddhist church, and a big part of Buddhism is compassion. So this idea of loving kindness towards yourself and towards others, and you try to encompass the entire world, in your loving thoughts. I just feel like a lot of the best parts of religions, different religions, there's a common core of ideals of trying to generate peace, and kindness, compassion, and love. And so I just feel like there's a lot to learn from from many, many different religions. And I feel like this song just expresses some of the best of those ideals. Thank you for playing this. I love this song so much.

Aaron Gobler:

Susan, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like something you may have thought of while we were listening to the songs or answers to questions that I that I hadn't asked you?

Susan Mashiyama:

It was great to try to think about some songs that were a really big part of my life and just still spoke to me and mean a lot to me even today. So thank you for that.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Thank you for taking the time to put the list together. And to be on the show. I had a lot of fun. It was really a joy listening to the songs prior to the show and thinking about them and how we would talk about them. I hope you had a good time, too.

Susan Mashiyama:

Yes, I did. Yes. Thank you for having me on the show, Aaron. Yes. Your love and enthusiasm for music really comes through in what you do.

Aaron Gobler:

Well thank you ... and to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list, so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called Dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody. Please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few. I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

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Episode 51 : My Three Songs with Gary Zenker

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 51. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Gary Zenker. Gary learned about the show from a past guest, Amy Mendelson, who I know from high school. So welcome to the show. Gary, how are you today?

Gary Zenker:

I am excellent. How are you doing?

Aaron Gobler:

I'm doing great. It's, you know, I'm in Berkeley, California. The weather here today is amazing. But we had a heatwave, and it got up to maybe like 80 something. So that's how hot it gets here. That's right. So I grew up in Philly, where it's hot and humid and like ad would be like, Okay, that's just a cool day.

Gary Zenker:

And that's why I'm laughing because I'm not that far from Philly. So that's kind of a cool, nice day.

Aaron Gobler:

So Gary, I understand you're in marketing. But I also understand you are involved in several writers' groups. Can you talk for a few minutes about what you do?

Gary Zenker:

Sure. So from a marketing standpoint, I am a guy who does strategic marketing, and then the tactical implementations that go along with it. Sometimes I work for a company full-time, sometimes they contract me for a piece of the job. And so marketing a lot of times involves copywriting. And that copy is more direct. We're not writing novels, we're writing very short, concise pieces, whether it's advertising or marketing plans, or whatever. And so I've always; well I shouldn't say I've always been interested in writing I, in high school, I was kind of an artist, I thought I was until my best buddy Kevin was a better artist than I was ... I went "crap, I have something better to do, because he's better at this than I am." So I started writing. And he was also a writer, but at least I could come to his level. I started writing ... started on the high school newspaper, which was really a joke rag. And then in college started writing for a college newspaper. And I just realized I liked writing, which I didn't think I did, you know, when they're requiring you to write essays. Just scroll forward 23 years later, or something. And I had joined a writers' group because I was unemployed at the time, I wanted something to do, and really found being around other writers who were writing fiction was was so interesting and inspiring. So a year later, I decided to start my own writers' group, not because I was leaving them, I'm still attending them. But um, I've wanted to share and a slightly different perspective on how to run a group. And I did that. And then a year later, I started a second group, which and they're both about 40 minutes away, I'm kind of in the middle. And my goal was to give people a place where they could better their craft, a place where they could learn how to publish their work, and make friends because a lot of writers are introverts. And it's harder for them to be social, in some cases. And certainly writing is a solitary craft in a lot of cases. I've been doing that now for 14 or 15 years running the two groups. And it gives me great pleasure to give people a home. And I'm inspired every time I hear their stories. I'm not jealous, I'm envious, right? Because I go, they have such talent. And I look at my own stuff. And it makes me want to do better and write more. And I've had some success in publishing my work, I wanted to share that with them and give them a home, you know, marketing, the writing part it all. It's not a surprise, it all fits together.

Aaron Gobler:

And as you're describing that experience ... right before you actually said that you were inspired by the others. That's actually a thought that was popping into my mind is that when you're trying to help other creators, that part of I think what is so exciting about that is not just feeling good that you are helping them but actually then being inspired by them. That is a magical thing about working with other creators...

Gary Zenker:

... and there's no competition. Right because people don't just buy one book or one story right? readers read tons and tons of stuff. Like I said, I'm I'm envious of their talent. I'm not jealous ... because they feed me and give me inspiration to try things I've never tried before. One of my particular madnesses is that my groups, everyone writes a different genre. Right? I have a couple of mystery writers, I have a couple romance writers ... And every time I hear someone write a good story, I go, could I do that in a thousand words ... could I write a really credible romance in a thousand words, or can I write and make you believe it's written by a woman instead of a man? All sorts of different things. So I am inspired every time I hear their stories and hear that need, and it's a gift, but I also get something out of it. So maybe it's not a purely ... it's a little bit selfish.

Aaron Gobler:

And one expression you just made earlier, was I guess, in regards to a school newspaper? Yeah. You called it a "Joke Rag". So like, how do you define that? I know that I have a general idea of what that means. But was .. are you disparaging the publication?

Gary Zenker:

No, no, I was trying to I was trying to accurately describe it. I think in the beginning it turned out that it reported on things that typically a high school would report on. You report, a little on sports ... report a little bit on some classes or something, what was going on, I went to a private school, by the way, so my entire class had 50 people in it. But we didn't have large staffs, right. So whoever wanted to be on the newspaper could be on it. So people would submit articles and blah, blah, blah. And when those people graduated, and my friend Kevin, remember the multitalented guy, Kevin Hudson. So we ended up both being editors of the thing. And we both focused on funny writing. And by the way, I should add to that I should add to that, then, so no surprise that I ended up being editor of the humor magazine in college, right? Because straight through, when I heard your podcast, I was really interested, right? Because the words of a song to me, are every bit if not more important than the music itself. And I'm not diminishing the value of the music. Words, speak critically to me. And I'm driven by that. And so when your other guests talk about what it means to them, and then you play the song, and I can hear those words, and then I can tie that, to how that makes someone else feel, and an event or many events in their lives. That storytelling, right. But that's two stories ... it's the story of the song. It's also the story of how that song impacts a particular individual. And that to me is that storytelling is fascinating.

Aaron Gobler:

Mmm hmm. And then, and you've kind of started answering my next question, which was, you know, it's really rewarding for me to have guests that were inspired by others to be on the show. So I'm really curious, like, like, so what, what about the show? And maybe you've answered this already. You know, you heard an interview I did with friend of yours, ours. So what was the thing then that made you want to be on the show?

Gary Zenker:

Well, first, I had to go listen to four or five more. Right? Because I listen to a lot of True Crime podcasts. Okay, because they're, again, they're stories, and they're important stories. And they're about emotion and feeling both for the unfortunate victims of the crime, and also some other narrative going on. But I was listening to that. And I was just fascinated, because we all have songs that are part of our lives that become woven into the fabric of, of our being of who we are. And three, sometimes it's really hard to choose, right? Because when you have your guests on, and they talk about a particular song, I may have my own story for that song. But I'm very interested in hearing that other person's story. And we all like to do comparisons. Well, that's not my story. And I don't always have to talk about my story about that song, but it's very interesting to hear it. And your podcasts reminds me of my favorite things on NP ... stories that involve real people, and stories that are significant, but you would never otherwise hear them. Unless you tuned in because you don't get mind- reading ability to get in other people's brains and find out what's significant. So, I just ... after I listened to four or five of them, I went,

Aaron Gobler:

It's interesting, you use the word important because for the show to be compelling, the guest has to Oh, my God, I'd love to do this. I'm not sure I'm important really feel what they're talking about or what they're enough to put on the show. Right? That's the whole point is experiencing or have experienced or continue to experience when they hear these songs is very important to them. And so I don't have to be important, but maybe I've got a perspective that's, you know, connected to like a passion. Right? And if that someone else will get something out of so either learn you're passionate about something, it's it has a lot of something or feel something and and that's why I write and importance. So every guest Gary is important.

Gary Zenker:

Okay. Okay

Aaron Gobler:

And just being on the show makes you very that's why I talk.

Gary Zenker:

Oh, that's okay. I don't know what the co-pay is, important to me. So I know you didn't come on the show for some kind of like pop psychology or anything. but I'll take care of the co-pay. But realize your show is important too, right? Your show does something amazing for all of us. And it's, it tells us stories.

Aaron Gobler:

I really appreciate you being part of the canon of this, of this show. And I'm really eager to talk to you about three songs that you had chosen. But before we get to the list, can you tell me like how music fits into your life? We haven't really talked about music specifically, like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or background of each day?

Gary Zenker:

Yes, and yes. I think like most teenagers of my age, because I'm 60, I spent every single dime I had, and dimes, I didn't have right, going to the record store every week, saving up my half my lunch money and starving myself. So I could go buy an album every week, and amassed quite a large collection. And I'm kind of a pop boy. So it's narrow. It's only narrow in its genre. But I had a lot, a lot more than most people have. And even now, I think there's something about music that takes that becomes significantly important when you're in those teen years. I'm not quite ... I couldn't tell you psychologically, why it is. But I think a lot of us gravitate back to that music. Maybe we were more passionate than maybe we were more emotional than. I do have a 17 year old son. And I wonder because they don't listen to music the same way. They use Spotify, they pull up a song they want, they don't have to buy an album, I wonder in 25 or 30 years, if the music will have the same impact on him that it does on me. And I'm a little sad that it might not because they're listening and the way they access music is totally different. Right? I hope for him it is. But I can tell you that I go out every weekend yard sales. And at a buck apiece I buy everything I've ever heard of and some things that you haven't heard of. So I just you know, I've got speaker in the shower. Music is just critically critically important. But again, it's it's it's partially the lyrics. It's really important to me when I say music, I mean, it's the song as a whole.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm sure there's some songs that are kind of like bubblegum and you enjoy hearing them. And the lyrics may be like kind of a little bit of a throwaway. But it sounds like the ones that are really lyrically rich and musically intriguing, or just really hearty or robust. Those are just really rewarding to you, like a banquet.

Gary Zenker:

I think that's really accurate. Those are really rewarding to me. The craft, the ability for someone to be able to put that together. It's just phenomenal.

Aaron Gobler:

And to your thought about how people access music, this is something it's a recurring theme, in my interviews, is because most of my guests are in their 50s and up ... primarily. And so we've all kind of experienced, you know, going to the record store or hearing a song trying to figure out who it is going into the record store trying to find it, you know, getting home, opening it, putting it on the record on the record player, stereo, picking up the needle, putting it again, you know, making a tape or whatever, and that it's so much different for ... I have a 21 year old and 25 year old .... daughters, And so, watching them, they both have certain Madonna songs they love or Beatles songs or other songs and I'm like how did you even like learn about that? Glee, you know, from Glee? Yeah, like the song "Loser" by Beck, they never would have heard it if it hadn't been like on Glee, right? So they hear about all these different ways. And then they can go find it. Like, immediately like while the show is playing, they can during a commercial break, or whatever you call whatever happens on on TV shows nowadays, you can, they might just go and look it up and hear it. So it's speeds up so fast the time between actually experiencing something for the first time and actually then procuring it and adding it ...

Gary Zenker:

Think of all the stuff that was out of press out of print, right because I'm gonna give you a ridiculous example ... Annette Funicello ... love her! For some reason just loving that, but could you go buy her albums for a while? No, no, they're out of print. There's no demand for them. You could go to a used record store if you could find it. Right. And if someone ... if it was playable, now you just go on the internet and go, go find Annette singing surf songs and immediately you have access to all of them. So it is a wonderful time, but your interaction the way you interact with music. The way you have to get it. It's I don't want to say it's it's worse, right? It's a little less special. If you don't have to search it out. It's easier to get, but there was something magical about having to go search for something because it wasn't just handed to you.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. And I've talked to I've used that word magic a lot in other discussions. And yeah, I think that two different kinds of magic that is occurring, and that in our age group, you might think like, people are missing that the younger crowd is missing out on that experience of taking the plastic cellophane off a record album and that kind of stuff. And that, that the magic, the magic really now is they can they can hold their phone up to a speaker somewhere in a restaurant or a club or whatever, and find out what song that is, and then all of a sudden, like, go down that rabbit hole or into that, that tree of that, that genre of music or something? Yeah, it's a different kind of magic. And I think you're right, you know, it is a whole other generation, what is it going to be like? And and what will our will our kids be saying about that? You know, 20 years from now, what will they be saying about how the younger kids then are getting the music and maybe they're going to have a Bluetooth actual tooth in their mouth? And they can just be, you know, feeling you know ...

Gary Zenker:

I think there's a Gilligan's Island episode where he can access radio stations, because something happened with the fillings in his mouth.

Aaron Gobler:

And there we go. Yeah, it's, it's kind of like, you know, at one point, you were the kid on the lawn, and the old man came out and said, "Get off my lawn!", and then you've turned into the man saying, "Hey, kids, get off my lawn!"

Gary Zenker:

Oh, my God. I was just gonna say that. It's funny. I was just gonna say, "get off my lawn, you darn kids!" Right? And you're right. I hope I hope it's magic for everyone. He's not going to have the same experience. And the kids aren't gonna have the same experience I did. But I hope their experience is just as special in their own way. And that it doesn't diminish at all.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Well, that's a good jumping point for for going to your list. So the three songs you chose were "Oh Boy" by Buddy Holly from 1960, "Song to Jamie / Tangled Up Puppet" by Harry Chapin from 1979, and "The Kind of Love You Never Recover From" by Christine Lavin from 1999. I'm eager for both of us to listen to these songs. And I'm really interested in knowing like why each of them is meaningful to you so so let's start listening to your first song. "Oh Boy", by Buddy Holly

Gary Zenker:

Oh my god, that is a great song!

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, why ... why don't you put that on your list? So Gary, you know, I'm gonna guess that most younger folks may recognize some of buddy Holly's songs but have like no idea how influential he was to the early rock and roll music sound and, and if you'll indulge me this bit of trivia, so this song was by Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, which was likely the main inspiration for The Beatles choosing their name, you know, having to do with insects and such. So I'm eager to know like, what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Gary Zenker:

So first of all, I'm going to I want to say that Buddy Holly, and apologies to anyone who wants to send me death threats, right? Way over Elvis, right? Just Elvis was a personality. But Buddy Holly wrote this incredible music, and then performed it. And if you would have had the camera on, you would have seen me dancing around playing air guitar. Right? Because I can't not do that. I don't ... something happened in my teens where I heard the song for the first time like, Oh my God, that's like the most perfect song ever. And then many years later, besides loving all of Buddy Holly stuff, I was lucky enough to adopt my son from Texas. And it was a complicated adoption. And when the adoption was finalized, the lawyer told me, you can take the boy out of Texas, but don't take Texas out of the boy, which is typical, right, Texas. That's how they feel. And I thought how am I going to honor that? And I thought, well, Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas, and that's where he's from, and so I thought, okay, so. And then I remembered the song and this is the song I used to sing to him from the day I held him until he stopped wanting to listen to me sing, right? This was my song for him. It was a playlist I had on CD, I would you know, whether I was in Texas or in Pennsylvania or whatever, whenever I was holding him I would sing this to him. And it just it just a joyous piece of who he is and who I am and it connected me and Texas and all of it together. Like that made the song doubly meaning right that song was just the best one of the best rock and roll songs ever heard. And then it became doubly meaningful when I had my son.

Aaron Gobler:

Hmm. Do you seek out Buddy Holly music specifically or this song when you want to get into a certain mindset?

Gary Zenker:

Do you know Linda Ronstadt covered a couple of Buddy Holly songs and she had, arguably one of the best voices in rock and roll ever. And her version is no, no worse than Buddy Holly's except there's something amazing about a singer- songwriter doing their own music and doing it really well. That's one of the CDs I carry in my car is Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Just, it just puts me in a really, really great frame of mind every single time. Although, you know, playing air guitar while you're driving is not recommended.

Aaron Gobler:

Unless you're driving maybe a Tesla or something. In "air guitar mode".

Gary Zenker:

I'd not recommend.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm guessing many listeners of this show know that Buddy Holly died at 23. And I think it was in 1959. And in an airplane crash ...

Gary Zenker:

Just tragic ...

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And it's one of those cases where you see someone who was so multi-talented, like you're describing, and like, he'd still be arguably still, you know, could still be alive today. Or even just you know, 20 years ago, he would have still been making music and what that would have been, you know what, what was lost in it losing him.

Gary Zenker:

And that makes some of his music all the more precious, right? It's when you compare him to Jerry Lewis or Chuck Berry, who had much longer careers or their careers were cut by other things. Yeah, it's just a tragedy that we lost him but he left a such a legacy of music. Yeah, just even at that ripe age of 23. He already inspired so many people.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you so much for including that song on your list. This is the first Buddy Holly song, I believe that has been on that I've included on the show. But, you know, I think if you played his greatest hits for some younger folks, they'd be like, Oh, I recognize that. Right? I have heard that song or, you know, "Peggy Sue" or others that are that are very famous. So thanks. Thanks again for for telling me about that song. Now, I'd like to go to your next two songs. And I mentioned I say next two songs because they are in a much different feeling or milieu, say, then the Buddy Holly song with which is so boppy, and these songs are more contemplative and expressive in a different way. So the next song on your list is "Song to Jamie / Tangled Up Puppet" by Harry Chapin. So let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about on the other side. / / / / Gary, that's really an incredibly beautiful song. Harry Chapin was a prolific singer and songwriter. But you'd be hard-pressed to find folks who can name any other song but by him, either, besides his huge hit "Cat's in the Cradle", or the song "Taxi". So what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Gary Zenker:

In college, someone introduced me to his Greatest Hits Live. And I fell in love with the album. It is just phenomenal story. And, you know, the critics never liked Harry, they thought he was too, too everything right. But his audience loved him. And then someone said, you know, he's got another live album, I said, really. And it's it's one that today is not even on CD, right? It's somehow the licensing and everything got missed. And it's very, very hard to find. And it's called "Legends of the Lost and Found". And I got a copy and I played it and it became one of my all time favorite albums ever. And this song was on it. Harry shined when he was live. I mean, this studio stuff was great. But he, the audience just made him 100 times better. And this one, when I listened to now I'm a teenager, I'm I'm still 19 or 20. I'm still selfish, but it made me cry the first time I heard it, because I could feel the heartache. And even now I'm getting a little motion, I could feel the heartache of the parent, with the child who separates because I was in that stage where I was separating. And I was self aware enough to know what I was doing. But maybe not how it made my parents feel. And it's always been one of my favorites. And then I adopted my son and he's now 17 And he's going through that stage. And it is triply meaningful when you're the parent and you feel it and so everything that I thought was great about that song, I wasn't even close on understanding as I am now as I go through this stage with my son hoping that you know, eventually he comes back emotionally. And again, it's yeah, it's the music but it's it's the perfect lyrics. It's the perfect understanding. It's the ability of, of his ability to write in a way that can make other people feel and make me feel even though I didn't have the kid at that time. So being able to make someone feel something deeply inside is an incredible talent.

Aaron Gobler:

It's so much part of human nature just be experiencing things and think that you are having a solely a unique experience or very poignant or significant experience like you're describing in terms of raising a child. And then to have somebody so poetically, frame it and all these different types of metaphors of butterflies in a spiderweb, or a tangled up puppet that it just really resonates. Like, you know, you hear that and it's immediately kind of solidifies for you like, wow, this is a common experience. And wow, this is a profound experience and enough for someone to put it in into these beautiful words.

Gary Zenker:

So I really am going to owe you a co-pay after this podcast, aren't I ? Very good to psychoanalysis. Very good. Very good.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I do. I do work with certain HMOs.

Gary Zenker:

That's good to know. But I would conclude by saying that anyone if this song or any of the other ones speak to you go find copies, go find used vinyl copies, or somehow "Legends of the Lost and Found", every story is as good as this one is. It's phenomenal.

Aaron Gobler:

The song "Cat's in the Cradle" is such like my kids know it. So it's like my kids, you know, my adult daughters. It's one of those songs that just is like, you know, continues on and the song "Taxi", which I just kind of rediscovered this morning when I was kind of just poking around, cuz I knew there were other songs and I knew by Harry Chapin, right, was also very popular song but not nearly as as wildly popular or wildly known as "Cat's in the Cradle", like, you know, you said there's so much more out there that one could listen to. And that applies to a lot of artists that there's so much good work that they've done. But all we really know about is there is the one that's been fed to us, even if it's a masterpiece like "Cats in the Cradle", right? That has its own whole storyline and message and allegory, metaphor and all that very powerful there to just like this song. So I, I really appreciate you adding this to your list. So I had never experienced the song before. But really just a beautiful song. Just a beautiful song.

Gary Zenker:

And, really, when I picked these three songs, Aaron, I, I love the fact about your show that usually I know one or two of the songs that someone picks, but I never know the third one, right? Or sometimes know two of them. And so when I saw, I could have picked 100, right, but I had to pick one someone may have heard and then one or two that maybe would be unusual that people wouldn't have but really impacted me emotionally. So that that would get shared, right. It's like here's something new.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's, that's a great segue into your third song, which is song I had never heard before. Excellent, excellent. The song is called "The Kind of Love You Never Recover From". And it's by Christine Lavin. So we're gonna listen to that now.

Gary Zenker:

Aaron, do I hear a tear running down your cheek?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I when I had to move my keyboard out of the way. So it didn't short out the keyboard there. Gary, when I saw this on your list. I recognize the name Christine Lavin, but I recall it might have been like a satirical song that I heard by her in the 90s. I probably on WMMR, which was an album-oriented rock station in Philadelphia.

Gary Zenker:

Yeah, that song. You're thinking of a "Sensitive New Age Guys". It's from the same album that this song came from. A friend of mine. I mentioned my Kevin Hudson who's my, my high school buddy that I talked about who I did the newspaper stuff with my best friend in college, Andy Kanik. We both worked at the radio station. And we were the music coordinators. So we get records in and we pick songs and put them on carts, which were like single-track eight-tracks, right?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Gary Zenker:

And we would get all the music first. And he he was amazing, Andy knew songs that were going to be hit six months before they were hits. He comes in to my room because we lived in the same house and he handed me a CD, said I think you're gonna like this. I think he just come back from New York and because Christine's in New York, and he handed me this album and it immediately became like my favorite album at that time that I could listen to. And this song again. I'm I'm in college and I really don't know enough to have all these feelings. But I heard this song and it made me cry. Because I think we all have at any point in our life. We all have something that we don't think we'll ever recover from we can't get back and we can't recover from it. And I thought she just expressed this so perfectly. And then of course as you go on later in life, you realize well maybe that wasn't the person I'm never gonna recover from maybe there's another one. And you think about that person, they're replaced by someone else. And, and that definitely happened for me twice. I think, in terms of someone I thought I would never recover from. I have to tell you, Aaron, that as a writer, myself, these are the songs I wish I had written, that if I'm envious about anything, it's that I wish I had written these. When any writer can create an emotion in someone else, joy, regret, love, hope, anything, then you've done an amazing thing. And I think, you know, all three of the songs that I've mentioned have done that Christine Lavin does it all the time, she's she's the equivalent of Harry Chapin.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for those observations. And I listened to the song several times earlier in the last day or so after I saw this on your list, and then I listened to it again, very intensely, or intently just now. And, you know, I hear what you're saying about in the moment, or shortly after the moment of being involved with somebody that you might feel like, you'll never recover from breaking up with them. And then you might discover you, you know, you have been able to get over it. But I wrote down a note to myself, while I was listening to it just now that there can be people in your life who really do kind of, are still part of you. And that even as you get involved with somebody else, that you never actually recover maybe the wrong word, but you never actually forget that, or you can disengage from that. So maybe recover is, you know, you obviously have recovered from that. But, but there are some people who enter our life and maybe not even somebody who's romantic, but it's something that you had a connection with somebody that will always be there with you.

Gary Zenker:

And you're right, it may be work. For some people, the word may not be recovered. But I do think a lot of people have someone that they will continue to think back on and ask what if, even if they're not disappointed with their life? Yeah, but you still look back and go, but I wonder what would have happened if and you're right, it doesn't have to be in someone romantic love, it could be something else.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, we're all kind of jigsaw puzzles. And with all different shaped pieces, each of us and then once in a while, there will be somebody who kind of fits really well in some regard. And that that's hard to that that puzzle piece may still be in your puzzle. You know, it may be a whole puzzle, your your puzzle may be a whole puzzle of one particular picture. And that one piece in there fits but it looks different than the rest of the puzzle, but it fits.

Gary Zenker:

Right. Right. So Christine Lavin is another one of those songwriters that if someone hasn't heard of her ... every album has something that I just consider a diamond on it. Yeah. I don't love every song the same way. Right. But most mostly I like everything she does. But every album has one diamond, I just go. Okay, gosh, her ability to mix the words and the music together are just magical.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you. Thanks, again for putting this on your list. Because I've been exposed just from the 30 ... now this from the 38th interview through ... to three times 38 episodes, certainly I know a lot of the songs that are in the show. But it's it's been great because I not really that great at just going and seeking out new stuff. So it's really fun and rewarding to be exposed to some stuff that I hadn't that hadn't heard before. So thank you again for that. And the Harry Chapin song, really, really beautiful testimonies to to the human condition as it relates to having to involve others in our lives, or how we deal with others in our lives.

Gary Zenker:

So what you're saying you got to have is what I get out of your podcast, right? Because I listen very closely, and I get experiences that I would never get for song, a songwriter or musician or whatever. And that's really cool. And then it doesn't stop there, right? Because you go well, if I like that so much. Maybe I go seeking out an album or two. Right, what else I can find, we give that gift to you. You give that gift to us.

Aaron Gobler:

Nice. Thank you for that observation. I do hope that the listeners seek out more music by the artists that we include in the show.

Gary Zenker:

I think sometimes, you know, an artist may have one hit or two hits. And for lots of reasons. It's different now than it was before. But that doesn't mean they don't have a wealth of music. That is just amazing. It's just waiting for us to find and discover and connect with and, you know, sometimes we we might listen to it at one eight or one point in our lives where it doesn't connect and then suddenly 10 years later, 20 years later has a lot of meaning to us.

Aaron Gobler:

I think it's one of those things that it's just the enormity of the music that's out there and that's being created at any one moment. It's overwhelming. And it's human nature probably to look at something and say that is just too much. And so I don't even know where to start. Almost like what we have with with what's available on on streaming nowadays is there's so much and I only have so much time. And and where do I start? And then you don't you get kind of paralyzed a little bit.

Gary Zenker:

Right. I agree. Yeah. It's sometimes it's hard to figure out where do you go to find the next great song? And sometimes it's just by accident.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, well, when people can go to Aaron's Radio Show, yeah, listen to three songs. And then and then just work from those as as the as a kernel for for their musical exploration.

Gary Zenker:

I think so.

Aaron Gobler:

Gary, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections? Like things you thought about while you were listening to the songs or answers to questions I didn't ask you.

Gary Zenker:

Oh, you know, there's ten other songs. That's the thing is, there's ten other songs as I'm listening, go, Oh, I wish other people could hear this. Oh, I wish people could hear this. But three makes it special, right? It gives us time to talk a little in depth about each one instead of just having a playlist. So yes, that's the only thing. Oh, I wish I could expose people to all this great music that I've heard.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, Gary, this has been a great conversation. I often say the conversations I have are a lot of fun. And I kind of think in my head about how often I laughed, and I don't, there wasn't a whole lot of laughter. But I feel like for me a fulfilling and rewarding conversation. And it was a real, real joy to to talk to you today. And I really appreciate you taking the time out to to be on the show.

Gary Zenker:

Oh, I thank you. And I thank you for doing the podcast because it is it continually teaches me and gives me it continues to give me direction for going to find new, amazing music. So I thank you for the endless but not just that. It tells me the stories that other people have. And that is as amazing as the music itself. So I thank you.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Great. Yeah, I'm so delighted that you, you chose to be on the show. And that's a great segue to ask my listeners. If you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot Show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list, so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the Radio Show called Dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody. Please go to Aaron's Radio dot Show slash Dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 50 : My Three Songs with Michèle Voillequé

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Michèle Voillequé. Michèle is a singer and voice teacher. And she's helped me significantly with my Radio Show endeavors. And I'm psyched to have her as a guest today. Welcome to the show, Michèle, how are you today?

Michèle Voillequé:

Hi, Aaron. I'm great. I'm great. It's nice to be here.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you so much, Michèle, for taking the time to be on the show today. And I wanted to talk with you for a few minutes about your career in voice teaching. And also if you could share some things about your various performances.

Michéle Voillequé:

Sure. The short story is that I started teaching children's music in 2005 and was singing at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley as a soloist. And people started asking me if I would teach them to sing. And I kept saying no, I don't do that. I just worked with kids. Then one day, I finally asked my voice teacher ... I said, "you know so-and-so you know, asked if I would teach them, you know?" And he said, "of course you should be teaching people ... you should be teaching grownups Yes, you should do that!" And so I needed a push. But that was 2008. And I work with all ages, literally, I think at one time, my youngest student was five and my oldest was in her late 80s. Right now that age range is a little bit more compressed. I love helping people sound ... what I say is sound like themselves and like what they sound like. So how to make a good, a good sound coming through a relaxed body. That just sounds like sounds like you, you at your best.

Aaron Gobler:

Gotcha. And I know you you worked with my daughter, Emma, for her bat mitzvah over 10 years ago, and then also are working with her right now, as she's developing her songwriting and singing art.

Michéle Voillequé:

Working with Emma is a really sweet opportunity for me in that, in that respect, in addition to the fact that she's just lovely and talented and a great student and fun. But having that experience of hearing the body in the early teens, and then the early 20, early mid 20s. Right. You know, maybe she'll come back when she's 50.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Speaking of Emma, she and I went to a performance at at the church that you described before, I believe.

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, yeah. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Just just a few weeks ago, and you were in part of that program. And so it reminded me that you actually are performing for audiences. So can you tell me something about that?

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah. Yeah, that was a that was a really fun program of opera scenes together with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra and sort of our first, well, not sort of, actually our first collaborative venture since COVID. And it was just a great time to have everybody in the same room making music again together, like, oh, you know, wow, this is a good thing. So as a singer, I'm basically a finely tuned bio weapon at this point in the world of respiratory viruses, so we're, we're, we're being really cautious. So I, you know, I test twice a week and I, all of that I sang this morning again, in the church service. And I've been preparing a recital based on a May Sarton poem called Now I Become Myself. And I don't have a date for that recital yet, but hopefully, before the end of the summer to do that, but beyond that, we're still kind of living week-to-week and month-to-month as performers. So yeah, that's all I can say right now. Walk by my house; it can be loud. You know.

Aaron Gobler:

So you, you are singing for yourself at home, you know, like sing like nobody's listening.

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, well, I try to practice what I preach. Don't you know? Yeah,

Aaron Gobler:

I do a lot of singing in the house. Emma does as well, and my spouse Lisa puts up with both of us singing; I imagine it's not awful otherwise she'd probably, you know, find reasons to leave the house. But if you had your choice I mean, you use you were singing operatically, the other day at this performance. Is that what you prefer in a public setting to perform? Or is there something else that you prefer?

Michéle Voillequé:

Oh, so I you know, I like it all. This morning I was singing Sondheim. And the recital program that I'm developing has opera, and Sondheim and runs the whole gamut. I don't rap. And I don't yell, don't scream, I don't do death metal.

Aaron Gobler:

So you draw the line at death metal ...

Michéle Voillequé:

I draw the line at death metal. Yeah. If it has a beautiful melody and a really nice poem, I generally want to sing it.

Aaron Gobler:

And just because you mentioned death metal, I have to ask you a question about that. I don't seek out death metal music. I'm not judging it in any way. But when I listen to it, the person obviously, who's singing it, they might need to rest their voice after they do a song or concert or something like that. But they are using their voice as an instrument in a way that they have to be able to not burn out. There's got to be something that they're doing a certain way to be sure that they don't just like destroy their voice.

Michéle Voillequé:

Right? Yeah. Well, we hope they aren't. But that's part of what's going on with death metal, is that there's a microphone there. And a lot of the kinds of things that you're hearing are effects with the microphone, and the breath. And that are actually not as straining on the voice as it might as it's not as strange as it sounds. So there's definitely technique going on. I mean, for the people who have a longish career, right, who don't burn themselves out, there's definitely technique there. Interesting. I mean, our vocal folds, you know, you've got, you've only got the pair, you've got two of them, and they're the size of your thumbnail, and we haven't figured out how to replace them yet. So it's really important that you be good to them.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I hear you. Maybe there is a place for me in that particular milieu ... you know, now that I realize it can be done with audio augmentation, so maybe you'll hear something from me someday. And in that, in that genre ...

Michéle Voillequé:

You have many years left in you. You've got time.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay. I'll keep that in mind. Yeah, I mean, you know, you're never too young to start a death metal career?

Michéle Voillequé:

I don't think so. Yeah. Or opera? You know?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Or death metal opera; there's whole genres that we, you know, crossover fusion things that we can create? Michelle, like I said, a moment ago, I'm really happy that you decided to be a guest. And I'm really curious, like, what inspired you to be on the show?

Michéle Voillequé:

Well, I love the idea of just three songs. And you know, what they, what they mean to you, you're a delight to talk to anyway. So like, how bad could this be? And just, yeah, the exercise of you know, like, well, just just three, pick three. And, you know, you and I could probably pick, we could do several versions of this, right? We each have way more than three.

Aaron Gobler:

Right. Because if you're really passionate about music, then you have sought it out, or at least just like take it in your whole life, then there are like whole types of groupings you could do of different songs; of three songs. So I'm completely with you on that. Before we get into your song list. Can you tell me how music fits into your life? I mean, I know this is what you do. A lot of your a lot of the vocal work is with music. But do you like seek out music each day? Is music in the foreground or the background of each day? I probably? I think I know the answer to that. But I ask everybody this question.

Michéle Voillequé:

No, I think that's a really great question. And the answer is no, I don't seek it out. Because it's coming to my door. And well, I guess I seek it out in the sense of, you know, there's a stack of music that I'm working on learning. And, you know, there are things that I'm interested in exploring, but I'm not like my father who in his work life would have, you know, symphonies on all the time, and he can hum for you entire symphonies, because he's listened to them a zillion times, you know, while he's been working. So, in between students, and in between my own practicing, I it's pretty quiet here. When my youngest was at home, she plays the saxophone. So there would be a lot of clarinet and saxophone practicing going on in the background. If I have to get something done that I'm not looking forward to, like, I don't know straightening up the house or you know, cleaning out the garage or something like that. I'll more often turn to a podcast than music. I've turned to speech.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Well, that's, that's interesting, 'cuz it's sometimes difficult to listen to a podcast as background, when you are doing something that requires a certain part of your brain to process something you're doing, but when you're doing something that's, you know, quote unquote, mindless, like reorganizing the garage or something like that, then your brain can concentrate on what the person is saying in the podcast. So I totally understand.

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, it's and it's like company, like, I'm not, you know ...

Aaron Gobler:

Right. But they're not helping you. You can't give them a box to move.

Michéle Voillequé:

No, but they're at least, you know, in the room, you know ...

Aaron Gobler:

Like, Ira Glass, come over here; could you help me move that thing over there? Yeah. Yeah, that's an interesting idea, too, is that you do feel like like you've got that companionship, even though they're basically just sitting there in the corner of the garage talking. And they really can't help you.

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

So Michèle, the songs you chose for today, because I know we're probably going to have you on the show again, at some other point for another three, is "Like the Way I Do", by Melissa Etheridge from 1988; "Dimming of the Day", by Bonnie Raitt from 1994; and "Love Is Our Cross to Bear", by John Gorka from 1990. So I'm really eager for us to both start listening to these songs, and I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's start with your first song, "Like the Way I Do" by Melissa Etheridge.

Michéle Voillequé:

Let's do it.

Aaron Gobler:

Michèle, this was such a breakthrough hit for Melissa Etheridge in 1988. And she was only 27 years old at the time, you know, it never really hit it big on the charts. But it is certainly unforgettable for so many of us who are in our 50s and 60s. So I'm eager to know like what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, it's such a trip to hear it again. Thank you for that. So I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder that was my freshman year. And I saw her in concert. And I just remember somebody I met in Boulder directed me to her. I don't know if if he gave me her album or said you should really listen to this. I think you'd really like it. And it was just it was just electrifying. I just I love the the passion in her voice which is reaching toward vocal damage, but I'm nervous as a voice teacher to listen to it. Okay. And just the, I don't know, the passion and the anger and the clarity. And the there's there's a little bit of a stalker vibe in it, you know? You know, it's a little bit scary. Yeah, yeah, I just I just loved it. And so I brought the song home to my family at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I played it for them. And they didn't know what to say. They were just struck speechless. And I thought we could talk about the album. But we really couldn't talk about the album, it was very weird, kind of like, "what happened to my baby girl?" And then, a few years later, my mom asked my dad for a divorce. And shortly after that, Louise moved into our house, and I was already out and on my own by then. And but a few years after that, my mom felt and Louise felt comfortable saying that they were partners, and they're now you know, legally married, they've been together forever. But I think at the time that I brought this song home, my parents' marriage was already rocky, you know, and like, there was another woman in the picture. My mom and Louise met in 1982. So like, there was a third person, and another truth emerging, you know, in this relationship. And I think I feel like this song and that album, just kind of hit a nerve that I didn't know was raw, you know. So it's, it's a turning point kind of song as I write my biography.

Aaron Gobler:

And when you played it for or when your family heard it, or your parents heard it. I'll just say for me when I first heard the song, I didn't know that Melissa Etheridge was gay. And so for me, I thought she was talking about a guy. And then I realized that was ... I think, was like maybe the first song where I actually realized that when someone's singing about another person, it doesn't necessarily mean the person of the opposite sex. And a lot of songs are worded in such a way that they don't actually, you know, identify what the gender identity is of the other person. Maybe this is a naive question then based on what you're describing, that it was clear to your family that Etheridge was gay. Is that part of the what you're describing?

Michéle Voillequé:

I knew she was a lesbian. And I think I told them, and I think that might have been ... yeah, that was maybe part of it too. I mean, my parents are atheist humanist, liberal people, I mean in a very conservative part of Idaho, so it wasn't like it wasn't the first time they'd heard the word lesbian or had, you know, it wasn't that wasn't that kind of a shock. But I think Melissa Etheridge was certainly, you know, out and proud earlier than ... well, obviously then my mom was ready to be out, but then earlier earlier than a lot of people, she really broke that barrier down, I think.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I agree. So we're gonna switch to more mellow songs than other next two songs that you've chose. And so let's jump right into the second song, which is "Dimming of the Day", by Bonnie Raitt. We'll give that a listen and we'll talk about it on the other side. Michèle, I love Bonnie Raitt. I've seen her in concert so many times. And just hearing the song, it brings me back to like the Mann Music Center in West Philadelphia. And she was the main act and she come on at like nine o'clock and the air would be still kind of humid, but there would be a cool breeze. And the sound was so sharp and clear. And her singing and her guitar playing ... so I thank you for choosing your Bonnie Raitt song and the song's written by Richard Thompson, another musician I really, really admire. So like, what a what a combination of talent right there. And so let me ask you what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Michéle Voillequé:

Well, I I wish I sounded like Bonnie Raitt. I came late to singing when I was in fifth grade, my fifth grade teacher told me to mouth the words ... the class was working on this, you know, big program of patriotic songs. And right before we were supposed to go perform it for the school district, she said, she pulled me aside and she said, you know, it's okay if you just mouthed the words.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh ...

Michéle Voillequé:

And so, I didn't start singing until I was in my early 20s. For when I was in college, I got dragged to a Community Chorus and talked into being an alto. And that sort of got me singing got me eventually to voice lessons and whatever and to where I am now. But when I think about that, but who I really wanted to, I would go to voice lessons and who I really wanted to sound like was Bonnie Raitt. And nobody's gonna sound like Bonnie ... only Bonnie Raitt is gonna sound like Bonnie Raitt. So I wanted to include it because she's just, I just love the emotion that she puts into the songs. I love the clarity of her voice. I love the variety. You know, the different tambor she gets with her voice. She's just really a remarkable storyteller. And again, you know, in kind of a trailblazing way, a woman who is singing about love and loss and vulnerability and death and like all of the things, but in not a wimpy way, and not in a way like she's hanging out for some man to show up and take care of her. You know, she's just ... has a wonderful presence about her.

Aaron Gobler:

It is really is a beautiful song. And songs are poetry put to music, but not all songs really feel like a poem. Like the way she's able to perform her songs.

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, I think that's right. And what I love about "Dimming of the Day" is, I think when when I was writing to you with my three songs, I think it's I said, it's like, it's comfort food. Right? It's like, it's like a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. And what I love about how how Richard Thompson has constructed the song is that you I can make it work for anything. I can make it work for for somebody who's died and who I'll never see again, I can make it work for ... it can touch the part in me when I'm in the middle of a misunderstanding with somebody, you know, and I can make it work for, you know, an estrangement, you know, missing a lost love, you know, the one that got away kind of story. You know, it's just depending on the verse, you know, I can just, I can just sit and be in this great emotion of love and longing and, and the way that it's, you know, I need you at the dimming of the day. Just a reminder that we're all still on this. We're all on this planet. We're all here. You know, the sun's going down for everybody else too. And I don't know. It's just Yeah, it's a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup.

Aaron Gobler:

So do you find that it's kind of an elixir for you for a variety of things that might, you know, get you from one mindset into into another.

Michéle Voillequé:

Absolutely. And now I kind of want to change my earlier answer to like, how do I seek out music in my day? When I seek out music to listen to? It's because I need medicine. It's because the song is ... or the piece of music is medicine. It's definitely yeah, "Dimming of the Day" is definitely an elixir. And so is the next one that John Gorka song. It's like a vitamin shot. You know?

Aaron Gobler:

And if you had to, if you had to identify the first song, "Like the Way I Do" as some kind of medicine or food, how would you describe?

Michéle Voillequé:

Oh ... I ...

Aaron Gobler:

I may require all guests to describe their songs in that fashion. Well, I'll let you think about that.

Michéle Voillequé:

Let me ponder that.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, okay, what kind of food or medicine would that be? So that's a great segue into the last song on your list, which is by John Gorka. It's from 1990. And the song is called "Love Is Our Cross to Bear". So let's give that a listen. Oh, Michèle, that's really really beautiful song. I had never heard of John Gorka before this week. And I discovered, you know, he's got about a dozen studio albums plus contributions to like another dozen compilations. And I want to thank you for for introducing his music to me. So why did you choose to include the song?

Michéle Voillequé:

Oh, that's great. So I had known about John Gorka, because I would listen to KFOG Acoustic Sunrise, on my way to church on Sunday mornings. And there was always Rosalie was always playing a John Gorka song. But I hadn't heard this one. A few years ago, my uncle who is a great music lover ... you two would talk for a week straight, if you ever met.

Aaron Gobler:

I'll try to get him on the show.

Michéle Voillequé:

He emailed me this song just out of the blue and said, I think it was for my birthday. "And so that I came across this song, and Michèle, I think you need it." He and I are not close. We hadn't had a conversation about anything, probably for maybe years before that. I mean, like Christmas cards and stuff, you know, and like, I have a really good feeling about my uncle, Kit. I love my uncle Kit a lot. But we're not like he doesn't know the details of my life. And this song landed in my inbox, like, it was just perfect. It was absolutely what I needed. And I just I'm still amazed at that. Yeah, so this is also an elixir. This is also a medicine song. This is one of the songs that when I need it, I can't sing it because it makes me cry. I love the mundane. Like, "I didn't know how to find you" followed by "I didn't know how to touch that light that's always gathering behind you." Right? I mean, it starts out like kind of sounding like an apology. And then all of a sudden, we're into this mystical place of, you know, love and adoration and amazement. And I love the framing, that love is our cross to bear that if you're suffering, if you're sad, if you're missing somebody, it's because you love them. That's a good thing. As opposed to I'm crushed and desperate, and I can barely get off the floor because I can't live without you and you're gone. Or I'll never see you again. It lifts me up out of despair.

Aaron Gobler:

And is your reading of the song ... I listened to it really closely for the first time just now. And is your reading of the song that these two people are geographically or physically apart? And and it's they're just having to deal with the fact that their love is a blessing in some sense. But also, it's something that can't be explored further or what is your sense?

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, it kind of sounded like, it sounds kind of like a summer camp story, you know, where you just find like, you finally almost connect with somebody enough to realize, Oh, you're one of my soul mates. And then your parents pick you up the next morning and take you to opposite you know, opposite ends of the county, opposite ends of the state opposite ends of the world. And it's like, oh, you know, we found something and we and we've, we haven't lost the thing but yeah, we can't be together. We're physically Yeah, we're physically separated.

Aaron Gobler:

And you said your uncle Kit sent you this song without much context, I guess.

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

So what immediately struck you about the song? What resonated? It sounds like something really resonated with you about about the song?

Michéle Voillequé:

Yeah, I think it's the title and the refrain, that love is our cross to bear.

Aaron Gobler:

And was there something going on in your life at that time that your uncle Kit could have divined in some way? Or was this just in the universe speaking to you through your uncle?

Michéle Voillequé:

So I for several years, I was in a folk trio. And we recorded two-and-a-half CDs and played around Berkeley and San Francisco and all around the neighborhood. So we had, like, two guitars, a mandolin, a violin, and our repertoire pretty much drifted and stayed in the desperation and despair category. If it was a sad song, if it was a love song, like we were probably gonna sing it. We were not singing like, happy-go-lucky Beach Boys kinds of, you know, and so it might have come from after hearing our first CD, thinking that this would be a good song, maybe for us to sing. But that wasn't what the email said ... the email was like, I think you need this song. You need this? So that's the only context. Yeah, I can suppose. But, um, I had already been divorced for a few years. He knew that. Yeah, I don't know. Maybe he's just just crazy intuitive.

Aaron Gobler:

That's remarkable.

Michéle Voillequé:

Oh, so I've got it. So "Like I Do" is like a shot of whiskey.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay!

Michéle Voillequé:

But this this song has that quality of like, you know, just desperate. Yeah. And if I had to give John Gorka a different food, I would say, like a blueberry buckle,

Aaron Gobler:

A blueberry buckle?

Michéle Voillequé:

So a buckle is the kind of desert where the crust is on top. So the blueberries are on the bottom. It's kind of like, okay, like a crisp. Only it's doughier than a you know, a crisp is more like crumbly on the top and a buck but that kind of a warm fruit dessert with cream.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, now I know what I'm gonna Google next. That sounds ... I mean, blueberry! any kind of pastry kind of thing with blueberries gets my attention right away. Thank you for introducing that new confection to my mental library of different types of doughie things that I enjoy eating.

Michéle Voillequé:

You're very welcome.

Aaron Gobler:

So Michelle, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections? Or like answers to questions that I didn't ask you?

Michéle Voillequé:

Oh, answers to questions. Um, well, I just want to say that I think I'm keeping to the theme of desperation, longing, desperation, and despair. Um, yeah, is the thread that goes through them? And also, yeah, a sense of home. You know, there's the childhood home, the, my current home home on the earth, and, you know, home through extended family. You know, that's, that's what I'd say.

Aaron Gobler:

Did you begin this list with that in mind? Or do you feel like you've kind of got that sensibility from the list after listening to it today, that that's where it's based?

Michéle Voillequé:

It kind of came together that way. It came together really quickly. And then I just all of a sudden notice that, you know, they're all from the same decade, more or less. Yeah, you know, 88, 90, and 94. Right. And, yeah, look, they're all about longing and despair. That's pretty consistent. Michelle, is there anything to add? No, that seems pretty complete.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Michéle Voillequé:

So as a first pass at your exercise, yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

I really appreciate your candor, and talking from the heart about these songs. And being very frank in our conversation. I really had a pleasure speaking with you. It was it was fun. And I learned more about you today as well, and also about some new dessert that I can make for myself. And I hope you had a good time, too.

Michéle Voillequé:

I did. Aaron, you're, well, you're a lot of fun to talk to you. And it's a great, it's a great question to consider. It's a great, I really appreciate having the opportunity to think about these songs in a different way, as opposed to instead of you know, just my, my comfort food or my kick in the pants,

Aaron Gobler:

Michèle, thank you. Thank you again for taking time to be on the show. And I'd like to say to my listeners if you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot Show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the radio show called "Dedications". If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener, with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody , please go to Aaron's Radio dot Show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 49 : My Three Songs with Rhan Small Ernst

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 49. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Rhan Small Ernst. Rhan is a business colleague and is also a very talented visual and sound artist. Welcome to the show. Rhan, how are you today?

Rhan Small Ernst:

I'm doing great. Thank you so much for having me on this show. I'm a big fan. I like I really love the topic. And I love I love talking about music. So this is a great thrill.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm so glad you offered to be on the show. And that we were able to schedule some time to interview I'm really looking forward to our conversation.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, I kind of thought it was gonna be a long time in the future. And then it

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. Awesome. So Rhan, can you talk for a few minutes about the different types of art that you create?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, I've been a visual artist and the sound artists for 30 years. Right now. It seems to be the last few years, my my art has been revolving around radio, I've got a couple of radio shows that I've been doing for the last few years of being in the Bay Area. So I've been up here Francisco. And they give me a middle-of-the night slot. So I just sort of do what I want. And the new show that I'm working on, "Tape Case Radio" is really about a tabula rasa every week, I don't know if I'm pronouncing that right. But I just I create a new show every week. And it's different from the last week and I leave last week behind. And I view this as an art practice with a deadline every week. So it keeps me on point. And I think I've probably never been stronger as a musician than I am now. My artwork right now seems to be radio, I'm making ones for radio. What I'm calling a radio show is really just like an on-demand, stream of sound, you know, interview and such. But what you're describing is closer to the actual old-school or standard radio show where you are doing something live, you know, at the moment, and then people would like go on a website and just like stream that show right that time ... ... and they can subscribe to it as a podcast. So there's a whole podcast network with BFF, too. And so that's really been, you know, a great thing for me, because I love the convenience of it. And you know, my show comes on at 2am in the morning. And if you wanted to listen to it live, you're a special kind of person. But the downloads, you never know how it's gonna go. Because you have to go to the website and download it, you know, this stuff. And then but a podcast app, you know, it just automatically updates. So I kind of prefer that thing. And so I

Aaron Gobler:

So you're thinking about it all the time.

Rhan Small Ernst:

I'm all the time I started the show, I put really wanted to be a part of the podcast network. But as you know, it's very hard to do with licensing. So that kind of also the show up on a Friday, Friday night or Friday evening. And pragmatically gave me the theme of this new show, because I then sometimes I immediately go into the next show and just couldn't use any licensed music, so I had to make it all up start working. So I leave the last week behind and, in fact, myself. And so that's been just an extraordinary, you know, art people have asked me about certain shows, and I cannot possibly remember what I did last week. Because it's always practice for me in a way that I've never devoted to my life, actually, you know, because every waking minute is about moving forward. So I don't know how quality it is. Because I that show. don't really stop and reflect that much. But I've been a musician and an artist for so long. I have faith in the process and it's about meeting deadlines and a mountain meeting you know being finished with things.

Aaron Gobler:

So on the show you you're performing as opposed to including pre-recorded music.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, the show is highly edited. I don't do like you ... I'm not as fearless as you are and just getting on the thing and talk ... in fact, I never really get on camera or on microphone, this is kind of an unusual thing that I'm just so willing to put my voice out there because I don't put my voice on the radio show, in past radio shows I've used voice-to-speech to be my DJ.

Aaron Gobler:

And then also you said, like each show is different. So having to be, I guess, creative in that sense, and not just rest on... I've done like almost 40 interviews for this format. I guess you could say, I've been resting on the laurels of this particular format.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, no, it's great when it becomes a format to that you can really trust and then start changing from the inside of that to I, yeah, every show I've done, I said, don't listen to the first four episodes. They're not, not anything resembling what the show ends up being after four or five episodes.

Aaron Gobler:

I was once told there is an old Russian proverb, which translates to "you always throw out the first pancake".

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

And yeah, so we don't want people to taste the first pancake?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Absolutely. I totally believe that.

Aaron Gobler:

In my case, you know, start with like, the fifth pancake.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Your shows were pretty well-formed right out the gate, I think.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you.

Rhan Small Ernst:

I think I started with one and it was very, the format is loose, and it's really, it works really well.

Aaron Gobler:

I found that because you can find music so easily, just by asking your phone play a song, that just me playing, you know, a dozen songs and talking between a few of them doesn't have the same appeal as hearing, you know, somebody talk about their music, passion. And, you know, having a conversation I found that was much more interesting to people.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, suddenly everyone has a lot of depth. I mean, we you and I know each other as business people who we, we work together, on, on, you know, specific projects and stuff. And so we don't let our love of music come into that every one. I mean, maybe in an off-hand comment or something. But we ... so when I found out you had this whole thing going on, you know, it creates this even more depth and I already knew you had ... business didn't allow us to talk about and the same with me. I mean, I think you and I both said "I have a radio show!" and I went "I have a radio show, too!"

Aaron Gobler:

That's right. Yeah. You from Jersey? I'm from Jersey!

Rhan Small Ernst:

I had no idea that either one of us were doing that. So I, I love that you give people an opportunity to show them show more depth in their life and then just going to work. You know, the normal stuff of life.

Aaron Gobler:

I've had a number of people say that the show and talking about their love of music, and also particular songs. But more, in general, just being able to talk for a while just about music was really refreshing for them. Because the people around them, like I mentioned a moment ago, sometimes if you're really passionate about any particular thing, and you're talking with people around you, they may not have that same passion. And you might feel like you're boring them. But in the interview, some people will just talk and talk about a particular thing. And you can hear all this excitement and passion. And they feel it's kind of therapeutic or cathartic or something that they're able to like, just talk about this and like, oh, people are listening to this. Well, you know, or we imagine they are but at least this person who's saying it is enjoying enjoying talking about it.

Rhan Small Ernst:

That brings up something I wanted to say to you too, and I have to mention this earlier that my partner Juliet said this about this show and this idea that it was incredibly generous of you to give people this opportunity. That's it shows a real generous spirit. And so I really, I personally appreciate it. Generosity is always a good marker, I think.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you. Thank you. I think if you asked me for words, to describe why I went into this particular format, I wouldn't necessarily say generous.

Rhan Small Ernst:

No.

Aaron Gobler:

I feel like ... but so I appreciate that. I think that's that's a very flattering way for me to think about it. When I tried the format, and just for the very first time I tried it back in August of last year, it just seemed natural to me. And then I also discovered that like there plenty of things in life, you're like, do I have to do that? Or, Oh, I'm anxious about doing that. Or is it going to be okay? And even with guests who I've never ... there are a couple of guests I didn't even know before I started emailing with them about the show and then and then I actually never talked to them until I actually right before we started recording but with for all of them I felt very at ease. I looked forward to it. i There are certain guests where I'm really excited about talking to them about this. So it seems very natural to me and not forced. And then I've gotten feedback that that it's people feel very at ease. So in that way I feel like it just worked really well and I'm really enjoying it and I would love to continue this and so now it's just finding people. It's just kind of nudging some people to do this because they like, I think in your case you wanted to do it. There are other people who said, Thank you for nudging me because I've been wanting to do this, and I keep putting it off.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Now that's really true. I didn't even have

Aaron Gobler:

Great. So before we get into the list, Ron, like what inspired you to be on the show?

Rhan Small Ernst:

I think it's there's, it's a probably a multi answer thing. Because I am a conceptual artist in general, I mean, even the radio shows I do, I think are some sort of conceptual art piece, basically. And so everything I do has some sort of, in terms of art, or this kind of conversation, it to think about this too much, because I just knew I wanted to. has something to do with me putting together sort of a theme And I think we, I think you knew me also, you know, when I'm down in my head, even if it's not that apparent. I think the themes for the songs I chose here is pretty apparent. And for something. And so, to me, it was never a question. I was what I was thinking about what these songs were, the how really hoping I would do it one day. So that was great. So there's the generosity, that's the generosity that it opens up romance is, as a romance and cinematic romance, whatever that the door to welcoming some other side of people, which is really kind of stuff is really a motivator for a lot of music. great. It's a great opportunity. And vice versa, I think movies or take from music, obviously. So these songs really go to a point of romance for me that was started very young in my life, an example of what romance is, and I've kind of held on to this forever. So these songs kind of gave me a sense of, in some cases, I heard them when I was really young. And in some cases, I filled in the gaps with it and gone back and thought well, that fits into that era of of romance and what romance was supposed to be to pop music. Yeah, so I just feel like there's a real shorthand between, you know, people's feelings of love or feelings of romance and the music that's in the air in the world right then. So these songs really represent that and in some cases, very specifically.

Aaron Gobler:

And with that intro, let's look at your list of songs. Like you said, these are kind of your romance related songs. The first is "When You Walked Through the Door" by the "5" Royales, and that was from 1956. Then also from 1956, "It's the Talk of the Town" by the Jackie Gleason Orchestra. And then we'll finish up with "When I Saw You" by the Ronettes from 1964. It's clear that those are like mid 50s, through mid 60s songs. They all share a kind of mellow sensibility. And you mentioned that a romantic theme through it, so listeners can consider that as they're hearing each of the songs. I'm eager for us both to listen to the songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you individually, besides the general theme. So let's get started with the first song which is "When You Walked Through the Door" by the "5" Royales.

Aaron Gobler.:

Rhan, I didn't know this song or the performers before this week, and I really want to thank you for sharing the song. It's a wonderful song. And through the magic of the internet, I learned that James Brown modeled his first vocal group after the "5" Royales. And if you listen to the song with that knowledge, you can certainly imagine James Brown singing this song. So I'm eager to know like what inspired you to include the song on your list?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Well, this is not a typical "5" Royales. They had a lot of hepped-up tunes there. I think that one hit they had was "Dedicated to the One I Love" [Rhan sings a little from the song] so I think that's their the one song that they got a hit with. But it turns out that a lot of people that heard "5" Royales ... the music was kind of famous on singles and stuff. And a lot of it ... it was in a particular time, right before you know right at that there's this crucial point of Rock 'n Roll music becoming accepted by the masses and it wasn't just certain kinds of music and the Royales were a real rock band. They really played upbeat music, this particular song, I just find it so magical that you know I take lyrics very seriously in these in these early songs because it's fun to do. Because people talk with such a weird way. Like there's one line in there, "I could scream! I I could scream!" Yeah. I just like to I like to think about somebody's looking up seeing somebody that is so beautiful and so perfect for their world and everything. changes for and so a lot of these things are about the transformative elements of falling in love and the music, supporting that and going with it. My favorite line in that song is "I felt so wonderful and strange when you walked through the door." I think that is poetic. I mean, even in the in this sort of Rock 'n Roll teenage thing that was going on at that particular point, there was still this magic poetry in there, "I felt so wonderful and strange" is ... I felt this before, when you look up and you see someone and just, they affect you everything. I mean, even if it's not just love or not, you know, not falling in love with somebody, you've, we've all been there, we've seen somebody just kind of enter your life in some way. And so I feel like the songs really capture that for me. I can picture the person walking through the door, I can picture this person sitting there and looking up and seeing them. It's a very palatable, very easy, easy scenario to attach some sort of cinematic notion to, you know, and romantic. Also, I will say the Royales are from my hometown in North Carolina, there's actually a statue that just got put up. So there has become a new embrace. I think they got entered into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame recently, too. So it's been nice hearing that, that they they're getting some attention after all these years.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I don't even recall the the name of the group. But I'm sure if I went back, like you're saying some of the songs that you described, there, there was some hits that I would recognize.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah. Yeah. So you had some dirty songs, some real suggestive lyrics about, you know, way girls walk and stuff. It's, it's really, they got a great catalog. Really

Aaron Gobler:

I really appreciate you focusing on the great catalog. lyrics here. Because, like you said, focusing on the lyrics of like "wonderful and strange", because wonderful, wonderful is a very common poetic word, it stirs wonder and stuff. And it's very soft and poetic. And then you have the word strange. We're brought up to believe that strange, you know, the stranger, or that's strange, or you're strange or whatever. But it actually is a real, like, vulnerable kind of thing that you could actually feel you could feel strange, right? Yeah. And so anybody who has, like you're saying experienced seeing somebody or, you know, hearing them for the first time or seeing them? Or you know, what some people might say, Love at first sight, or whatever it is ... it's a strange feeling. That's it, it's something that you identify that this is not normal or regular. It's kind of strange. So it is a It's oddly a poetic?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah. And I feel like his voice in that way, it just starts right up to and it's like, there's no, there's no beginning to that song. Except "when you". Yeah, I mean, it's just exactly very succinct and concise with what it is describing. And I think it does a really good job of paring down and let you fill in the blanks. You know, it's I love things where you don't have to be told everything and you your own brain can bring the story two things. I just, that's another element of pop music that is not talked about much, but they give you something that allows you to apply it to your life and apply it to feelings in your life. And that's what makes a good song work is when people recognize themselves in it, you know? Yeah, and I definitely feel that with this kind of song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And like, and you also mentioned, like he says, he felt like he was gonna shout or whatever, but he's, it's still pretty controlled in his singing, but like, you're like you identified, he sounds excited. Like his voice raises. You know, "when you walk THROUGH" he kind of jumps as like, that's when she's walking through the door. That's when that person is walking out the door.

Rhan Small Ernst:

So how many times is that an actress walked into a scene? I mean, I think about the first time I kind of noticed that was with Grace Kelly in "Rear Window" when it was re-released in the 70s. And I had never seen Grace Kelly. Honestly, I was young, and I didn't. I didn't know her. But the way that she comes in on that on the in the movie is she ... Jimmy Stewart opens his eyes and there she is. And so I mean, that's an example right there of what they're talking about in this song. It's like suddenly you see ...

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, Rhan, thanks for pointing out this group. Because I guess again, I'd like to go back and listen to the catalog, especially after you describe what some of the other songs are centered around.

Rhan Small Ernst:

I think you'll really like having that music playing I mean, cuz it's, it's really they keeps things upbeat. This is one of the rare ballads, they have ballads ...

Aaron Gobler:

... and do other songs of theirs in their catalogue also kind of make you think about James Brown?

Rhan Small Ernst:

You know, that's the interesting thing. I didn't I hadn't really heard that. But it makes sense to me. But no, they're not a groove-theory band. Like, I think when I think of James Brown, he really did do some of those kinds of songs, obviously. But when he started realizing the minimalism of what he was doing, I think that's when he kicked in and became much more powerful. Yeah. James Brown is a whole other show. I would love to talk about him because his influence on the world is so incredible. And a lot of modern music is so influenced by James. So to hear where he may have gotten some feedback, some stuff that's really wonderful.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, I can imagine the song, "Please, Please, Please" which is in which seems like very similar to this particular song.

Rhan Small Ernst:

It is exact ... and that's a really good pointer. And I never thought about that. But it is very similar. "Please, Please, Please". Really close. Really

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, this is what's great about like a cool. Wikipedia, I like to assume that everything on there is true. But I think it's something like this, people are not going to necessarily lie. But it seems very likely like this was you know, that he was inspired by this. And so it's kind of exciting to say, oh, that person was inspired by this.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah. I mean, it growing up in Winston Salem in my life, I'd never heard about The "5" Royales until I

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Thank you again, for for including that grew up and came to California. And then I discovered ... I song. And so let's jump into your next song, which is an actually discovered them in a music library. In Glendale, instrumental by the Jackie Gleason orchestra. And it's California. I they had several records. And I was like, What in called, "It's the Talk of the Town". So let's give that a the world? And then I did research and found that they listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side. were from my hometown, what a weird thing that you were drawn

Aaron Gobler.:

I'm so relaxed now. That that song ... the to them and said, Yeah, it's really interesting. And well, also the all the catalog being there in this library was quite album its from is "Music to Change Her Mind." amazing.

Rhan Small Ernst:

[Chuckles] Yes.

Aaron Gobler:

And, you know, Rhan, I, I bet most people around our generation think of Jackie Gleason, only as Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners. And he was in a couple of Hollywood, Hollywood films as well. But they likely don't know that he composed the show's theme music as well as creating the show. And I just think in general, people don't know much about Gleason's musical endeavors. What inspired you to include this song on your list?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Well, this type of sound was big for me when I was a kid, my, my grandparents had a big Lincoln Town Car, and I would drive with him after church to whatever restaurant we were going to after church, and they I was, it was a, you know, kind of a thrill to be in the backseat of this giant Lincoln Town Car. And they played music like this, they drove around listening to antovani and, you know, easy listening, and it was called easy listening at that time. And it was these big orchestral musics that, you know, the, the main melody of the song if it was a lyrical song, you know, there would be a one instrument that handled all of the lyrics basically, you know, and, you know, so these are kind of like the, the equivalency of of a novel that's been written after a movie in some cases, but they create their own environment. And well, Jackie Gleason, you know, it's hard to imagine what a powerhouse of an entertainer he was at the time. If you only know, Honeymooners, but Honeymooners was only once one season that was it. And yet it is still people still know it

Aaron Gobler:

Right.

Rhan Small Ernst:

And he had a really remarkable fluidity about today. production and like, Honeymooners was very low-fi and very punk rock even because the, I can remember seeing shows of the Honeymooners in the walls move because they were just paper, you know, so it's like, they really had a low-fi kind of feeling about it. Conversely, the music the guy made was high production. Like you could probably tell with that song. There's probably sounds like 50 violins on there. And back then, of course, they didn't do a lot of overdubs. It was you know, pretty much recording things that as it was. He joked once on Johnny Carson that he got every mandolin player in a certain area, you know ... he wanted a song with as many mandolin and so on them as he could get, and, and he made the very curious joke, you couldn't get a haircut anywhere in the vicinity. And I don't know what the relationship to mandolins in haircuts were, but that's pretty funny. But he had a really strange relationship with music. And he was not he could you did not know how to write music, the trumpet player and I'm really, really sorry for not knowing his name, because his collaboration with this trumpet player who features very much in that last song, you know, did all of the arrangements for Jackie Gleason. And Gleason, I think, had an remarkable way of expressing mood and what he was going for, I think he probably was an extraordinary producer. But as far as the music, he could not play a note, you know, he just could just not describe it. His main reason for doing this was, he saw, famously saw a Clark Gable movie and, you know, Clark Gable reached over to kiss the girl, these strings appeared. And he was like, Oh, I really believe that. What's this poor guy in Brooklyn, what's the bus driver in Brooklyn, gonna do? He needs help. So he really made these things in a conceptual way. And so that the bus driver in Brooklyn, the working class could have beautiful strings behind their romance. So the music had a purpose to it for him. And he was literally creating background music for the romance of the proletariat. This is my own say, saying, I think he was remarkable in that, that he was a very fancy, you know, successful artist. But he still remembered where he came from, which was in Brooklyn, and being poor and you know, trying to create the magical and, and romance of life in any any aspect in a class of people. And I just always admired that side of him. And he made a lot of records got a lot of them. So this was a big deal as far as him as an artist, but he kept it separate from, you know, the comedy, comedy world and movie world, he was, like a totally different person.

Aaron Gobler:

And so you use the word producer. So oftentimes, we think of a producer, as someone who just kind of helps create something from lots of parts and keeps things in a certain order and, and moves them through from beginning to end. But it sounds like in his case, he was actually very creative, and that he would conceptualize things like you're describing.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Oh, yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

You know, like, the Honeymooners, the concept of the show and, and then just like you're saying, like, what kind of music would you put in a certain scene? So he, he produced, he took that concept and then produce something from that.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, I think he must have been extremely romantic and his bringing ... you know, in his life. I mean, he must have been very influenced by love because even the Honeymooners, which was just a farce, I mean, just a crazy show, had this beautiful theme, that and then the moon, you know, his face that appear in the moonlight above Brooklyn. So you had a definite, I mean, every show the Honeymoon ends with him dipping over his wife, you know, to giving her a kiss after they've had a terrible argument or something. So I think he really always returned to the how big his heart must have been, and how overflowing his heart must have been about romance, because he really turned it into an art form, in a way is that I think Mantovani and those other guys, Nelson Riddle, they did. They were more musicians. And I think he was more of a listener, to be honest with you. I think he understood the effect of music more than the notes. He understood if you piled a bunch of strings on top of each other, it was only going to give you more romance. And the fact that he had great people and artists around him and technicians that can pull that off is a real feat. I just ... such a big fan. I love his albums, I love that they're called "Music To Change Her Mind" or, you know, he got very conceptual and he did a whole thing about it was one called Aphrodite. And I mean he, he really he did tailor these albums for specific purposes, you know, to change from a music for lovers music to dance. You know, it's it was the album's meant more than just the music. I have an odd relationship with music. I'm not I'm not as old as my music tastes here is revealing .. i was born in 64. So I think a lot of this came through my family and through my experience, like you know, riding in the backseat of my grandparents car and stuff. But you know, it spoke to me as a kid. It spoke to me in a real way. You know, later it was the Beatles and The Stones and you know, that natural progression but as a young kid, I think I got instilled with the idea of what what this meant to the world. and what it meant to me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, now we're both born in the same year, I did an episode where I was, I didn't have a guest. And I talked about three songs from from the year 1969. Because I, during that show, I mentioned that that was like when I first really started recognizing music as, yeah, not just something I was hearing as a little kid, but something like on the radio or something you could buy or whatever. So, so give that give that a listen.

Rhan Small Ernst:

And yeah, well, I actually saw that you did do that show. And I haven't heard that one.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, so. So yeah, it touches you at a very early age. And, and if you really, if it's triggering something in your mind, if it's setting off little fireworks in your mind, then you're just going to be more fascinated with it and focus on it. So it's not surprising that stuff from this era, that was before and around the time you were born, is resonating with you, because you were hearing it.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, I think that's really true. And, you know, likewise, if I can get a little social about this, I think it did instill some stuff in me that maybe not so relevant to real world. I mean, I, for the longest time, grew up hearing that romance was kind of from the woman's point-of-view, and men just had to meet it. You know, as I've grown up, and with different relationships. And especially in my current relationship, I realized that all of that romance is really coming from me, it's coming from my mind, in my heart, and my partner that might she, she doesn't really, she doesn't have the same, you know, relevancy for some of those romance, her idea of romance is different than mine. But, I kind of have this classic sort of ... Valentine's Day is so important to me, but she could care less about it. And so it just made me think, wow, you know, a lot of this stuff came from an early, you know, notion of what romance is, but it's kind of dangerous to stay by that ... you have to let romance grow and evolve to the person you're with. And so I did a lot of realizing that these romantic notions that I had were instilled in me young, and they may be really personal, that have nothing to do with somebody else entirely. You know, it may be all within my own mind. And I think that carries over with a lot of people's point of view about romance is that's how we have the Hallmark industry, you know, is we're all supposed to feel the same thing on certain levels, you know? So that's been that's been a big influence on me in recent years examining like, where did these things come from in the, you know, where did all these feelings come from? And a lot of times, it's pop music. Definitely, you know ...

Aaron Gobler:

... everybody has different sensitivities to different kinds of ideas or sounds. And so it does sound like if a song is romantic, or poetic, in that kind of way that it resonates with you. You know that the vibration with you is different than what it might be for somebody else.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, definitely. There was a really cruel retort to someone writing a letter to somebody, and I read this in the book, and I can't remember what it was, but the person wrote a letter just laying their heart out on the line. And the response of the person who really saw this saw through what this person was doing was "next time, write to ME." And I think of all of the gifts I've given over the years to women usually had something to do with the fact that I was getting buy the gift for myself, and I think this is common. I don't I'm not not judging myself about it, but it did bring did you bring in awareness that, you know, a lot of times we're doing things for ourselves that we don't realize, we think we're doing somebody else, but really, it's, it's us, you know, our own biases, our own tendencies towards things, you know, my relationship to these romantic songs have evolved and have changed. But there's still a core in it that is really still present to me today. You know, I just listening to that song just now I was. It's funny, I can still feel that what it's doing to my body, I can still feel doing to my, my mind, in some ways.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I would say personally, I would, I think that our world, we would be better if more people were of the romantic mind, as opposed to hearing a song and then wanting to go smash things.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, that's true. That is the other side of thing. But indeed, I think that's as equally a romantic notion. I mean, someone who really gets fired up about, you know, punk rock or something. There's a romance there. I mean, you just have to examine what the romance is actually about.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. That's true. It's a passion, like can be a passion for smashing things. Yeah, that's right. Or, or the patriarchy ...

Rhan Small Ernst:

... or they feel the act of them being rebellious is a romantic notion. It's yeah, there is a certain level of romance with that.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. And there's you can see beauty in lots of different things and not just in the, the stereotypical things.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, exactly.

Aaron Gobler:

So the beauty of Pete Townsend smashing his amplifier with his guitar ...

Rhan Small Ernst:

Oh, yeah. Yeah. And we know, you know, if you're into that, and you're really a fan, you feel that visceral feeling and his guitar, you're there with him. That's how it works.

Aaron Gobler:

Really! Yeah, yeah. And, and so, in that same theme of romance. The last song on your list is by the Ronettes, and it is "When I Saw You", let's give that a listen.

Aaron Gobler.:

Rhan, as you know, the Ronettes lead singer, Ronnie Spector died just this past January, and a part of her fame is certainly due to her first husband, Phil Spector, whose "Wall of Sound" production and his record label really helped propel her career. So the biggest hit for them was likely "Be My Baby" A lot of people probably recognize that song. And today, I learned that the name of Ronettes is actually a combination of the trio's name's Ronnie, Nedra and Estelle. I didn't, I didn't realize it was actually like a portmanteau of those. So why did you choose to include the song?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Well, I really, you know, Phil Spector has got such a, he's real tricky to talk about. But yeah, you know, his Wall of Sound is really on display here. Because it's more so than say, like the more upbeat songs which the sound display there, too. But you know, he's another one like Jackie Gleason, who thought more was better. So he would pile like three grand pianos on a song, they're all playing the same notes. Yeah, just amplifying the sound basically, is what his thing was. But more to the point, he had the same thing that Jackie Gleason did, he understood what romance was to a song and I had heard that his idea was to make symphonies for young people. That was really what he wanted to do with his records. And that's why they were big. And that's why they're big and romantic and sweeping songs. And this goes back to the first, you know, the first song that I put on, I guess, the transformation of being of looking up and seeing someone and having that completely change your, your world is, wow, what can be more romantic than that? You know, I mean, imagine seeing someone, that something, you look up and see something in someone that, you know, makes you feel like, you've got to lose your mind over this person. That's the line that kills me in this, "I'd lose my mind over you." I look up and see you and I know I'm gonna, I'm not I'm not going to be able to hold it together. I just think that is beautiful. You know, I there's a wolf whistle thing from Warner Brothers cartoons where they go "ah-ooo-gah" when they see a pretty girl. But then there's also this thing that really becomes an internal thing, and I shouldn't gender it. But you know, it's It is that kind of thing. You just sort of bury it deep, and it affects you deeply. That's what I hear in the song I hear the craziness of their relationship I hear. I mean, I think that's a pretty vulnerable thing for Phil Spector to write his wife to say, you know, when I saw you, I knew I lose my mind over you. And I think it really does say something about their torrid relationship and what was going on with them in real life. But boy, doesn't it apply to just anyone, you know, you just you're having a cup of coffee, and you look up and there it is, you know, your whole life is completely different. I just think that is beautiful. What can be more romantic than a change of perspective?

Aaron Gobler:

We reduce it to this, like love at first sight thing again, right? But that might just be again, a reduction. And it may be that really you just you're you're feeling some some kind of vibration or power in relation to that person. And that it's hard to describe.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, I mean, one of the things personally for me growing up is I saw the effects of people who couldn't help themselves falling in love with people. I mean, there were several people my family like, why are you two together? It's because something happened. You know, and something overcame their differences or, you know, who they were our or even what society is supposed to tell. My uncle was gay ... and IS gay and was gay in my life early on. So I was very aware that he was very open about it. And he wasn't, you know, wasn't very unusual for that particular time in life. And my father fell in love with someone else when I was young. And so I really saw firsthand how love doesn't play by any rules. And I think the song kind of talk about that a little a little bit, there's, you know, you're sitting here, one with one minute, and the next minute, something just overtakes you, and you didn't realize it was going to happen. And this is overly romantic way of looking at things. But I had so many examples of in my life when I was young, and what that really meant, and it meant more to me than being a tough guy, or being in sports or anything, I was drawn to this sensibility, more than anything else, because I guess I just could feel it. And there were so many examples of people, you know, breaking the rules to be in love. And I just love that notion. In some ways. It's very, it's very romantic, you know, against all odds.

Aaron Gobler:

I think there's also a certain amount of maturity needed to realize when you're just enamored with somebody, versus actually, you know, really fully connected with that person.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah. Well, that's why we love teenage movies so much a certain point because, yeah, you're watching someone who can't control themselves. And it's a great notion, you know, I also would always love the idea of doing a modern-day teenage drama, and then not having any modern-day music in it, but only like, Jackie Gleason, I think that would be I think that would also speak to the to the notion of what we're talking about. I loved Mad Men, because of that, you know, Mad Men was so great, because it had such a great mood with its music.

Aaron Gobler:

I agree. I agree. So Ron, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like, things that maybe popped into your head while we were listening to them? Or, or answers to questions that I didn't ask?

Rhan Small Ernst:

Again, thank you for having me on and to talk about this stuff. Because it is like, for me just realizing I'm kind of giving you a portrait of myself a little bit, too. And I think that's the case with this show. In general. We're learning about people through their feelings about music, and it's something I like to think about myself constantly I in music I'm doing is how did this where did this come from? Where's this notion? What does this remind me of? That is a key thing that keeps me on track aesthetically. And so I think that I've revealed something about my own relationship to romance with my conversation here. I think it's pretty easy to say, say that I'm a very romantic person to a fault. So that's, I guess that's the final statement about these three songs, because they really speak to me in terms of my idea of what romance is.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And thank you for letting us see that side. And, and sharing that very personal thread today.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

It was a lot of fun. It was, it was definitely educational for me for you know, learning more about your music tastes and music history. But um, I really enjoyed our conversation.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Aw man, I did too. Again, thank you for this generosity, it's, it's a real thrill to be able to just talk about music. I mean, we don't allow ourselves to do it that much. I mean, in the real world. So thank you, again, for creating the show. It's a real thrill.

Aaron Gobler:

You're very welcome. And you are welcome to come back again with another set of songs. And they could be romance-based, but maybe we can explore another avenue of your music taste, too.

Rhan Small Ernst:

Yeah, I think that's I liked the idea of coming up with an idea about the songs, three songs. And then sort of tie them together. Of course, that was what I tried to do here is really talking about romance. So yeah, it would be great to explore another topic and and see what songs come up for me on that or come up with another guest on that, too. I love that idea.

Aaron Gobler.:

So thank you again for taking time today, Rhan, and I do want to say to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot Show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list, so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the Radio Show called Dedications. If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener. And then he would play the song. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you, if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody, please go to Aaron's Radio dot Show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive a few, I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications.

Aaron Gobler:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 47 : My Three Songs with Aaron Gobler

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 47. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, our show will be a little different than usual. Rather than having a guest, I'll be talking only to you. I've conducted 34 interviews from My Three Songs so far. But sometimes the timing doesn't work out for getting a guest every time I need one. It's really important to me that I keep a schedule for the show, you know, have an episode every week. So today, you'll be hearing from just me about three memorable songs from my life. I'm hoping the slight change the format will provide you and me a different but equally enjoyable experience. And I'd like to continue to produce some episodes with just the two of us.

Aaron Gobler.:

Before we get into my list, I do want to thank all my guests from the bottom of my heart. This show is a labor of love for me. And every guest has done me a huge service by believing in what I'm doing and supporting my efforts. So I want to thank all of my guests. And of course, I want to thank you my listeners for keeping up with the show. It's incredibly rewarding to know that people are enjoying something I produce.

Aaron Gobler:

So let's start talking about music. I thought for a while about what songs I'd want to share if the tables were turned, and I were the guest instead of the host. Music has been a real soundtrack for my life. And I thought I'd focus on different periods of my life and highlight three songs from those years or eras. Today I've chosen to focus on 1969. And that's the first time I can recall actually grasping the concept of popular music, through radio and vinyl. I was around five years-old at that time. The songs I'm including today are "More Today Than Yesterday" by the Spiral Starecase; "Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In" by the 5th Dimension"; and "Sugar, Sugar", by the Archies. So let's not waste any time and jump right into "More Today Than Yesterday".

Aaron Gobler.:

Now I don't think I could grow tired of hearing that song. I think it epitomizes my experience of listening to WFIL AM 560 in Philadelphia back in 1969. You know when I hear this song, I'm immediately brought back to being driven to kindergarten by a family friend, Tony DeBello. He was a barber. And my dad and I, and eventually my baby brother Michael, were customers of his. He lived not too far away from us. And he worked near where my kindergarten was. So he offered to drive me to kindergarten in the mornings. And as I recall, he had this tiny sports car I don't know maybe it was like a Fiat Spider. But I could see the asphalt move under the car. As we were driving. You know, there was a small hole somewhere probably around the brake pedal so I could actually see the road moving underneath the car. So it was kind of thrilling. But the more important thing for this story is really that he had his radio on WFIL and we listened to music on our ride. And that's really so much of what I remember about the experience of him driving me to kindergarten. I really don't know how long a period of time he drove me to kindergarten but I certainly remember listening to the radio on our rides. Now, as I got older I started appreciating the lyrics more, especially in regards to the math like more today than yesterday but half as much as tomorrow. And as I started pondering that more I realized just how poetic it was. And such a good lesson in fractions and multiplication, too.

Aaron Gobler:

Now, next song is "Aquarius / Let the Sun Shine In" by the 5th Dimension. Let's take a listen to that.

Aaron Gobler.:

This song was from the popular musical "Hair", but I really wasn't aware of that at age five. Nor did I hear the song "Hair" for another year or so. One of the things that really fascinated me about this song was that it was like two songs in one, and I hadn't really experienced something like that. I didn't connect the fact that it was actually a medley of two songs from the musical. I also recall this song as, as one of the many 45 RPM records that my mom or someone else in our family had already. And that was before I had actually bought any of my own records. This song sounds so kind of ethereal and mystical at the beginning. And at age five, I really didn't understand astrology or astronomy, or anything, really about what they were saying in the song. But I just was caught up in the feeling of the song. And then it switches to this, like joyous gospel celebration, and they're singing, "let the sun shine in!" And it just, I just felt like it was this amazing like sandwich. And it's still a timeless song for me. But whenever I do hear it, I brought back to 1969.

Aaron Gobler:

So let's take a listen to the last song on my list, which is "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies.

Aaron Gobler.:

Now at age five, I was not aware of the Archies TV show which was on and I don't remember how old I was when I made that association that this was from that TV show. I think as a five year-old, I simply just appreciated the simpleness of the song. One of the most poignant memories of the song for me is the 45 RPM record ... the vinyl ... that I had of the song; it had a crack straight through it from the edge to the center. I remember being fascinated about how records worked. And that I could snap the vinyl back into some kind of alignment. And I could still play it. It did have a distinct tick each time the nield went over the crack. But I really remarked at the fact that I it was not ruined, that I could still actually play this record and that the groove, as tiny as it was, the needle was still able to to, to work its way around the record, I still have that 45 ... I probably should try to play it and see if I can recreate that feeling of fascination about a cracked record.

Aaron Gobler:

After sharing my thoughts today, I realized I probably could do an entire podcast series on the 45s I used to or still possess. I think I had over maybe 300 of them at some point. But that's just a wild guess based on how many boxes of 45s I had at some point. I'm guessing I could file through them and experience something like going through a photo album. But in this case, the pictures would all just be inside my head.

Aaron Gobler.:

I like to thank you for taking some time today to enjoy this little trip back in time with me. And please let me know if you'd like me to create more episodes like this in the future. And of course, if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My three songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service. But the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler:

Before we wrap up this episode, I wanted to let you know of an experimental format we have for the Radio Show. The name of the format is "Dedications." If you're familiar with Casey Kasem's Top 40 show, he would read a dedication written by one listener with hopes that it would reach the ears of another listener, and then he would play the song. In this new experimental format. I'm hoping to recapture some of that magic. So I'm asking you ... if you have a dedication you'd like to make to somebody, please go to Aaron's Radio dot show slash dedications to submit yours. Once I receive several I'll begin making episodes based on those dedications. Thanks!

Aaron Gobler.:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 46 : My Three Songs with Hani Hara

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 46. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my guest is Hani Hara. Hani is one of my wife Lisa's amazing uncles. He's a very talented visual artist. And as I've discovered recently, very passionate about music. Welcome to the show, Hani, how are you today?

Hani Hara:

I'm doing very well, Aaron, thank you for having me appreciate.

Aaron Gobler:

Oh, it's my pleasure. I know I've been kind of nudging you for a little while. And I'm delighted that you've chosen to be on the show. Now, I have to say I love your artwork. It makes me think of Picasso, but a much brighter and more upbeat version of Picasso.

Hani Hara:

Well, thank you so much. Picasso was definitely a very, very strong influence on me even as a young young person. You know, I appreciate that comment, in the sense that it does have some of that feel, as well, some strong colors, which I love to paint with.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, certainly, we have a few of your, your works in our house. And you'd actually given Lisa and I a wedding gift of a painting, too, so we have that in our living room. So think about you often.

Hani Hara:

Well, that's very kind. Thank you.

Aaron Gobler:

So like I said before, I'm really delighted to have you as a guest. What inspired you to be on the show?

Hani Hara:

You know, it's funny, when you started doing the show a few years ago, I've been following you. I've listened to a few episodes along the way. And, you know, all along, I thought, man that's tough to pick three songs, you know, out of all ... and so on. But, you know, the more I thought about it, I said, let's give it a shot and see what happens. And so I was able to pick at least three songs that have a good memory for me.

Aaron Gobler:

Mmm hmm. In your process of coming up with your three songs? Did you feel rewarded by it? Or challenged by it? Or did it divulge something to you that you hadn't thought about?

Hani Hara:

You know, it's funny, before I even committed to the show, I started thinking about songs and what songs would I pick? There's so many I've had such a long life of music. There's been so so many wonderful songs along the way that just have made such an impact. But it was tough. It was tough. But eventually I did come up with some songs. And as we keep talking, I think, you know, we'll figure out why I picked them. And, you know, so let's see what happens as we get going.

Aaron Gobler:

Right? Before we get to your song list. Can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or background of each day?

Hani Hara:

Oh my goodness, I Yes, I listen to music ... usually in the car. If I'm watching any kind of sports, I'll just turn off the sound and listen to music. You know, I was a very, very big collector of records when I was younger, worked at different record stores, you know, at an early age and a lot of ways to accumulate a lot of albums. One place I worked at was such an education and music. This was in Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio. You know, this was in college and worked at a record store called Discount Records and at Discount Records you had to take a test to get a job there. A music test. I'd never heard of such a thing. But it was great because when I applied the manager of the store said okay, we're looking for a guy in rock. I said that's what I'm applying for. But you still have to know more about everything else you can't just know by rock and nothing else. So you get Just me a test with classical and folk and jazz and, you know, all kinds of music. And, you know, thank God I passed because what it did is that I ended up working with experts in all of those other music fields. So by the time I finished, it was almost like an education in music. Because we all had the chance to use the turntable when it was our turn. And you can get any album in the store and put it on, you could open it and turn people on to it. So everybody was putting out something to try to inspire the next person, you know, yeah, it was really a lot of fun. A lot of fun.

Aaron Gobler:

That sounds like an awesome experience. It's hard to find even record stores nowadays. That's really a unique experience, I feel like and I'd like to take that test to I think I'd like to see what that test looks like,

Hani Hara:

Thank God, I knew that Beethoven had nine symphonies. I think that's what did it for me!

Aaron Gobler:

You almost didn't get that one. So ...

Hani Hara:

Yeah, I knew that one. So that was good.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you find yourself seeking out music each day nowadays, or in most of your life?

Hani Hara:

Not only seeking it out, I'm 73 years old, and I'm always searching for new music. And I find that there's such great music, I belong to Apple Music, so I can just about any, any record out there I can get. And they start to suggest things that go with my taste. There's so many new groups, so many, great, such great music being produced these days. And in different genres, you know, it's like, I could listen to hip-hop, and get an appreciation for it. Even though that's not what I usually listen to. But to me, it's all about the creative process of coming up with a great beat or something, you know, that can catch me, put me in a great mood.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, to that point, I don't think there's anything like pure rock and roll or a pure jazz, there's so many influences, and any musicians, like any kind of artist, you know, get influenced by other artists, and put their own imprint on it. So it's it's difficult to get really bored listening to music. And it's fun for me when I'm listening to songs that I've not heard before, to actually start ... and this may really bore the people who I'm around when I'm when I start ... talking about it is like, oh, I can hear the influence of this or this sounds so much like that person or whatever. And then I'll go on Wikipedia and I'll look it up and it'll say so and so was influenced strongly by this or this such a such performer was actually one of the musicians in the song or something.

Hani Hara:

Yeah, yeah. All that means is you gotta really you've got a wonderful ear you know, for not just the record, but the inside of the music. You know, who's playing? What, when's that coming in? Yeah, that's pretty cool. Like the other day I'm listening to some music with a friend of mine and and he's going "Are the horns in there?" I go "of course, can't you hear the horns and listen to the, you know, the organ!" you can start to decipher the the individual instruments.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I do find that I'm able to listen to a song and just concentrate on a certain part of the song. You know, certain very distinct styles like George Harrison guitar playing or a particular voice. Some of them are so unique that you could tell Dave Matthews singing in a song for example. It's a never ending journey. And it's great that you are open to experiencing, you know, new music as well.

Hani Hara:

Which is one of the song picks that we'll talk about later as well.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Okay. Well, let's, let's jump into your list. The songs you chose were "Rock Around the Clock", by Bill Haley and His Comets, from 1955. And I'm assuming that's not the newer song that you're talking about. "Comin' Home Baby" by Herbie Mann from 1961. And "Fire On the Mountain", by the Grateful Dead from 1978. Prior to producing this episode, I only heard of "Rock Around the Clock", but I'm eager for us both to listen to all three of these songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So So again, let's start out with the first song on your list, "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and His Comets. Hani, this has to be one of the most recognized songs in America and it was the first Rock-and-Roll record to reach number one on the US charts and my understanding is it remained there for about two full months. And I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list.

Hani Hara:

Well, the reason I included this was, as you all know, I was born in Egypt, in Cairo, Egypt. And in the 50s, I used to go to the theater, which was just an outdoor theater with a bunch of chairs. And you'd sit outside and see American movies, I must have been eight, nine, something like that when the movie, "The Girl Can't Help It" came out near my house. And here I am as, as an Egyptian Jewish kid from Egypt, watching this movie, with all the great bands, including Bill Haley and His Comets, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, I think was in there. I mean, there were tons of Rock-and-Roll people, you know, groups in that movie. And I'm sitting down, mesmerised. You know, we're in a different country, Rock-and-Roll is not the thing over there. And I'm listening to and I'm watching this movie, and I just fell in love with Rock-and-Roll. You know, at that time there was my Dad ... hadn't even said anything about moving. We eventually did come to the United States, where this was normal. But at the time when I heard it, it created such a spark in my soul, that there was something out there that was so different than anything I've ever been used to. And so Rock-and-Roll and pop music became a big, big influence on me even in Egypt, even though I didn't have my hands on any record. I didn't even have a record player. But I was able to sometimes listen to through the movies.

Aaron Gobler:

What kind of music were you listening to? Prior to that, I think you said you were nine when you heard this.

Hani Hara:

Eight or something like that. And the only time I would listen to music is when my father would put in, put on some music of the popular Egyptian singers. Oh, my concern was a wonderful singer. And you know, then the Egyptian music was more soulful, very slow. And it really from the heart. And then all sudden, this Rock-and-Roll comes up. You know, it was so different! I mean, it was really, yeah, that it just blew me away. It blew me away. Yeah. You know, eventually, when we did come to the United States, man, oh, man. That's what I really got into music.

Aaron Gobler:

And what year was it that you arrived in the United States?

Hani Hara:

We came to the United States in 1959, June of 59. It's funny, we, you know, the people that kind of sponsored us to come to the United States as refugees, and immigrants, put us up in a hotel. And there was an old TV and my sisters kind of make fun of me. But as soon as we walked into that room, I went to that TV. And I got it to work. I don't know what the hell I did. But I was able to, you know, get going. And of course, what was the first program that we ever saw in the United States was American Bandstand. So it was like besheret that it should be time to get into this. So that's why that song is so meaningful, really.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. And as I was researching the song for the show, because I always want to learn something new that I hadn't before. And then listen to it. Again, after not hearing it for a while, listen to it very closely. It is categorized as like, you know, Rock-and-Roll. But it actually seems like it's maybe a bridge between the Big Band sound, and a more what we would call rock based sound, although most of us probably wouldn't call this Rock-and-Roll, I guess at that time, that was the name that was given to this kind of sound. But it really has that Big Band sound as well. It seems like it was like the the entry drug into Rock-and-Roll for people who are really used to the Big Band sound.

Hani Hara:

Well, you know, that's part of it. But I think part of the other way to look at it is that why did Bill Haley in the comments put out this record, you know, of Rock-and-Roll ... well Rock-and-Roll was going on in the Black community. I mean, the Black people were into, you know, blues, Rock-and-Roll. I mean, really great songs. But Haley being a white guy, you know, was able to sell it, you know, and cross-over. You know, when you look at the history, there's a lot of wonderful songs that were done, you know, before albums before Bill Haley and before Gene Vincent, you know, the Black singers would do and then eventually caught up a little.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that is definitely part of the history of, of music is either you can call the appropriation or repurposing or performance by white artists of songs that were written and performed, you know, sometimes 10, 20, 30 years earlier by Black artists.

Hani Hara:

Exactly. You know what America music is Black music. You know, if you take it back far enough jazz, you know, blues rock. Yeah, it's all came from our Black brothers.

Aaron Gobler:

Speaking of jazz, that's a good segue into your next song, which is a wonderful tune by Herbie Mann, called "Comin' Home Baby". And let's give that a listen and we'll talk about it on the other side. Hani, I'd never heard this song before this week. The band sound evokes for me like a 1960s vibe. And I don't think I've heard long jazz pieces like this where the flute is front and center. So what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Hani Hara:

Well, 1966 I think it was a wonderful friend Richard invited me to his house, I would go there and sleep over and he collected jazz records. And he comes up with this album. "Live at the Village Gate "with Herbie Mann. Well, Herbie Mann was a flutist, which was unusual in jazz, but he really, it blew me away. I love love that. Richie and I would stay up late and I would sleep at his house and we'd get on the radio and listen to Rochester New York jazz station was the only jazz station we could actually get late at night and there was such great music, Coltrane, Miles, Herbie Mann, I mean, all these guys ... that up until that time, I was more a rock guy, you know, like a pop guy, The Beatles, The Stones, you name it, I was that's what I was into. And when Richie introduced me to jazz, it was really such a an eye-opener that there's this wonderful music that is out there. And I really became a collector of some wonderful, wonderful jazz music, especially when I worked at the record store that because the jazz guy there turned us on to even, you know, more music that was so outstanding. And so the reason I put that record on, is because it started to take me and introduced me to more music, you know, and jazz and blues. You know, folk, classical, all of a sudden, I couldn't get enough of all kinds of music. That's why I put that one in there.

Aaron Gobler:

It's remarkable how, like you said, like this example one song could like, kind of blow your mind, just like the "Rock Around the Clock". It's like you hadn't even thought about this kind of sound. And then you hear it, and then all of a sudden you need to get more.

Hani Hara:

Exactly, yeah, it's out there. I mean, all you have to do is dig a little bit those days. You know, it was 45s, eventually 33s. But, you know, I collected them all.

Aaron Gobler:

Would you have classified yourself as part of some group like Beatniks ... or I don't even know, I'm not even sure what a Beatnik is; I just kind of know that term. Would you hang around with people who were like in a certain music scene?

Hani Hara:

Especially college age. When I worked at the record store. Yes. Before that, it was more, you know, going to see the local bands, you know, there was one band, The Dantes, that would play the stones, music and all kinds of English rock. There was other bands that play and, and they would have these battle the bands at different venues. And so you know, you'd have all the kids from all the high school, not just your own area, but from all over town would come to these and it would be dancing, and the music was great. It was just such a great time. Really, such a great time for music. It's, you know, I gotta tell you, Aaron, it's always great music, all you have to do is, you know, just listen.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, although as we get older, and we experienced this from our parents, too. It's like, you know, the parents would ask, like, what are you listening to? And that seems to be perpetual thing because there's, you know ... I with my young adult daughters and stuff that they were listening to, I'm like, what is this? And, you know, I wouldn't say this to them directly, but in my mind, I'm thinking like, how could they be enjoying this? But then, you know, it's just a perpetual thing. It's always that way. But you know, but once in a while I will hear something that's very contemporary, and I'm like that is really neat. That's really new. And I liked that. Yeah.

Hani Hara:

I mean, I remember the first time when Josh, I think it was, or Jesse put on ... those are my son's ... put on some music and it was, you know, it was like crazy music and, and I said, "Can't you turn it down!!??" Donna, my wife, says "I thought you said you'd never say that to your kids!!" I said "I lied!!"

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's just that we're not attuned to it. It doesn't speak to us in the same way.

Hani Hara:

But I will say that I even though in the beginning, I couldn't get into the rap. But I got to really respect it after I really got to know it. And it may not be something that I would listen to. But I remember one time. You know, I came home with a Queen Latifah CD, and the guys made so much fun ... "Dad! You know what this is???" I'd say "it sounded great!" But that's why I got it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. And like you said earlier, you're keeping an open mind to, to new stuff, or listening for new stuff. And it seems to me that you've gotten into the Grateful Dead relatively recently. So the last song on your list is a song by The Grateful Dead. We'll get that a listen. And then we can talk about Grateful Dead after we hear it. And that song is "Fire On the Mountain". So let's give that a listen. Hani, I'll admit, I only know a handful of Grateful Dead songs. And they're mostly the ones that are this length about three to five minutes. Because I know they have some really, really long, really long songs. So why did you choose to include this song?

Hani Hara:

Well, like you, I really wasn't into the Dead. That, you know, throughout my life, I think I went to see 'em 68, 69, 70, around there at a local club when they were just starting out in Columbus, but it never really made an impact and, and eventually, my youngest son, Jesse got into 'em. And he started traveling and seeing them. And they always said "Dad, Dad, you got to try them!" "Naw, that's not my thing." you know. And that's just another example of being open-minded. As you as you age, that's a beautiful thing. About three years ago, I was invited in Cleveland to a wonderful, wonderful gentleman that would hold these Dead weekends. And they would invite all these Dead bands cover bands to come in. And maybe there was an Allman Brothers Band one one day, you know, so it was kind of a jam weekend. And, you know, listening live to the music, that the Dead, you know, wrote later on, it just blew me away how great it was. And so right after that, I just listen, I mean, I couldn't get enough of it. And, you know, the Jerry Garcia Band, the Dead Band, you know, and that led me to other bands that cover them. Now it's Dead and Company. And Bob Weir and the Wolf Brothers, I mean, there's some great music. And so, the reason I picked it is because, again, you know, to have something new at the age of seventy is a gift. Especially when it's been around the whole time, under a cover that I never uncovered, you know. So that's been that's been great. And, you know, there's such such good music, such good music.

Aaron Gobler:

So have you actually, I was gonna say, are you collecting music, but we don't really collect music in this same way we used to, like, you know, going out and buying all the different albums. But do you find that your I guess the the analog of that now is by going on to like Apple music, iTunes and such and purchasing stuff. Are you creating a collection of their music?

Hani Hara:

All my life I collected art, er, records. You know, it started with LPs. And to this day, I may have six or 700 albums. Of course my son Jesse took a bunch of good ones which I told him with pleasure ... I was happy he was doing it. It would save them later on when I died ... he didn't have to clean up as much. But then it became 8-tracks and I started collecting 8-track and then cassettes and then DVDs. By the time Apple Music came around, I had over 21,000 songs that I collected on my iPod, you know and that was tremendous. And now I look at it, it's meaningless. I've got every record ever made, which was a Robert Klein bit, by the way that he did, you know, late night, you know, buying records. And he had one bit that was like, they would, you know, all the song titles would scroll so fast, you can even see, but they were scrolling, because every song ever made on this, you know, you can buy. When I think about that bit how funny it is now, because on my phone, I have every song that's ever been made just about. And so technology, you know, a lot of guys that I know that are so so you know, the LPs are sacred and all that. I said, No, no, it's the music that counts. It's not how it presents to you, but the music. And so it's so easy to come up with songs, now. You have a question or you wonder what song is, two seconds later, it's playing on your, you know, on your Apple Music, or whoever with Pandora or whatever, you know,

Aaron Gobler:

I had a similar conversation with another guest. And that the magic we have now of like going on Shazam, and having the software or even Google listen to a song that's playing and tells you who it is. And you know, and then you can go and buy it or listen to it right away or like you saying, Tell Siri or Google on your phone to just play a song. And that's, that's it. That's really remarkable. But we've also lost some of the magic of some of the thrill, I guess, not really magic, but the thrill of actually going to the store and buying it and taking record home and opening it up and playing it and stuff. There's something there was something mystical about that. And so that mystical part is gone.

Hani Hara:

No question. Yeah, it's so funny, you say that, because anytime that Donna and I would go to a store that had a record department, I was always at the record department, flipping through each record, you know, what I mean? You know, all these years, we'd walk in, she goes, "I'll come and get you when I'm done." And that was the first place I went to, and you know, you start accumulating these wonderful collections. I mean, some great Blue Notes I mean, you know, jazz, which is phenomenal. So yeah, that part of it. I agree. 100%. I used to love to go into a store that had records, a bookstore, record store, whatever it was, just flip through each one and see what kind of treasures and you know what, here's the funny part is that my Jesse, my younger son does that now, he collects records, LPs. So the tradition continues.

Aaron Gobler:

So Hani, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like things you may have thought of, while we were playing the songs or answers to questions that I didn't pose to you?

Hani Hara:

You know, it's been such a wonderful visit with you, Aaron, you know, to talk music. We don't do that, that that often now. So it's been a great pleasure reliving some of my thoughts on music, and it's, you have such a wonderful podcast, and you know, to be able to discuss why all your guests pick theirs and everybody that I've listened to have such meaning of, you know, it's not that, like one guy a couple of days ago that you interviewed. He says this, it's not my favorite, we all have favorites every month, you know, every time you hear something, my favorites, but it they all make an impact, you know? And so when you do revisit that song, you know, when it comes up on your on your Apple or whatever, it just such a pleasure, such a pleasure. And the ones that I don't, you know, they come up that I don't know, those are the even better, because then I can go to the album and see, is it just the one-song band? Or is the whole album any, you know, what's their history? You know, there has to be just more than one song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I hear you. Yeah. And that's, it's really great that you are adventurous and explore like that. And I have found that my guests are all passionate about music, I think in order to to volunteer to be on the show, you have to really I feel like, have some strong feelings about music and then have be able to reach into your self and see those connections, how that music has attached itself to different parts of your life. And then everybody's come, you know, to the show with those stories.

Hani Hara:

Yeah, yeah. Because what you're asking is really not the three best songs or the three favorites. But give me three memories in your life. Why did you pick these, you know? Yeah, that's the beauty of this show. Because then you really get to find out about someone.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, Hani, I want to thank you again for your time and, and for sharing with me the stories and the songs, and their meaning; it was great catching up with you. I don't see you very often and it was good actually having a nice long talk with you about this because I really I don't think either of us have ever had a conversation about about music, it was a lot of fun...

Hani Hara:

Not one-on-one. And it's been wonderful Aaron and I want you to make sure you give Lisa and the girls a big hug and my sister a big big hug. I miss you guys. And now that things are settling down hopefully, it'll be sooner than later that we visit.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you again, Hani. I really enjoyed our time together. And I want to say to my listeners if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot Show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 45 : My Three Songs with Susan Shertok

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show.

Aaron Gobler:

Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Susan Shertok. Susan is a new friend of mine, and she signed up to be a guest after listening to Episode 44, which starred her good friend, Michael Cook. She's a very talented accordionist. And I'm excited to talk with her and have her share some of her talent. Welcome to the show. Susan, how are you today?

Susan Shertok:

I am doing very well. And I'm so glad to be here. Thank you,

Aaron Gobler:

Susan, can you tell me did you find the accordion? Or did the accordion find you? I'm always fascinated how people take up particular instruments. What What's your backstory?

Susan Shertok:

Well, I would say it was a mutual attraction. Somehow it worked out for the both of us. My earliest memory is being eight years-old and going to a family party. And I saw an accordion player there. And I was just blown away to the moon and back. And this instrument was so majestic and powerful. And the man walked around the room with it. And the bellows went in and out. And it was just wonderful. And in that minute I said to myself, I want to learn how to play that. So I started nagging my parents for lessons. And two years go by; I'm now 10 years old, and I'm still nagging. And they they agreed to buy me a piano and they said, How about if we start you with that, but you have to promise to take practice it because of cost a lot of money. So I gave them my promise. And I did practice hard, but I still wanted my accordion. So now I'm 12 years old, and now I become a professional nagger. Okay. Finally at age 12, I got my accordion. And I practiced it and loved it. I've enjoyed it. And I played it for 60 years now. So I am still with it, both the piano and the accordion.

Aaron Gobler:

And that's awesome. And the accordion that you play is what they call it a piano accordion?

Susan Shertok:

Yes, you would call it that because your right hand has the piano notes as we say, some accordions have buttons on both sides. So that's a little bit different. But the piano certainly helped me by learning that first because that was the easy part. And I just had to learn the left hand the button part.

Aaron Gobler:

Uh huh. You know, I discovered this week as I was learning more about accordions that the piano accordion is the official instrument of the city of San Francisco.

Susan Shertok:

That's interesting. I didn't know that.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, I didn't know that. I don't think most people in this world know that. I can see San Francisco if I go up on the top of the hill by my house. So I feel like a special connection now to the accordion in my proximity to San Francisco. I find the instrument fascinating too; it is like you said, I can just imagine being places where somebody is walking around playing the accordion. And there are not a lot of instruments that kind of have their own ... maybe the bagpipe ... you know, which has its own amplification system kind of built in. And you can walk around playing that and it is such a unique instrument.

Susan Shertok:

I also have had one uncle who played a lot of instruments. So I'm glad in my life that I had someone to inspire me with music. And I wish everyone had that experience also. Because it's wonderful to discover an instrument and stick with it and learn everything there about it. And there's no end to learning music. I encourage everyone no matter what age to learn an instrument, and all the genres of music that we have and all the composers that we have. It's a lifelong and more learning experience.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I have two thoughts about that. One is learning an instrument. When you see someone play an instrument or hear them play an instrument and they've been doing it for a long time ... it just seems so easy. Because they make it look easy. And then when you pick-up that instrument, whatever it is ... unless it's like the kazoo ... you realize just how much work it takes to to become proficient, and sound like you know what you're doing. So it can be discouraging, and people really have to stick with it. And I'm like, I'm learning the ukulele, but I'm doing it very casually. And it's been a couple years now, and I'm getting better, but I'm not really super proficient at it. But there's something magical about producing the music yourself, I discovered, you feel that it's not just listening to music, but producing it,

Susan Shertok:

I guess I've got the control, I can add whatever I like to add all those decorations and music, and put my own spin on it. So that is the fun part, that we can add a lot of things to it. Also, here in the libraries in Delaware, they're offering free ukulele classes to people. And I think that's wonderful. And I'm glad that libraries are much more than a place to go for books today, or libraries have music concerts all the time. It's more of a community center today. And maybe it's with COVID, we needed that place as a community place to gather.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. And that's something that's really been lost, I guess, during during the pandemic is this ability to have communal music experiences and to try to get some of that back is very important. Susan, can you tell me like what the little buttons on the other side of the accordion are? I'm I've never been able to ask an accordionist? How what how that works? Like, can you give me some technical understanding in a few minutes as to what they do, or how you work them?

Susan Shertok:

Aaron, you're asking me all the magic secrets now that everyone will know! Okay, so they are chords. So really, the accordion is not a difficult instrument to play. So with just one finger pressing down a button, you're really getting the sound of three notes, or four notes in that one button. So those are chords. So my right hand is playing the melody on the piano side. And on the left hand is just chords. Next to the chords, there's one row, that's a major chord row. Another row is a minor chord row, seven chord and diminished rows. It's just easy to play with the left hand. So it may look difficult people do look at that and wonder how do you know which button to play? There's 120 buttons on that. But one note is marked. So you have your bearings. And then from that one note, that's mark, you can jump up to notes or jump down to notes and play that button. So that's the secret they are chords.

Aaron Gobler:

And I'm always fascinated as to how things work. Do you know ... short of me actually opening up an accordion ... do you know how like a particular button is making those that chord sound?

Susan Shertok:

No, I really don't!

Aaron Gobler:

What's fascinating about instruments, if you just look at like even the wind instruments and how you know the the holes are in certain places, and then you press certain buttons like on a clarinet and it automatically opens up certain valves. And it's just remarkable just how these instruments were created. And I'm just fascinated now with, say, looking at a cross-section of an accordion and seeing exactly how all those buttons, make those chords. So that's that's my next ... that's my next rabbit hole on Wikipedia. Susan, I'm really, really delighted that you decided to be a guest on can you tell me what inspired you to be on the show?

Susan Shertok:

Well, Mike Cook, the your friend who previously made a podcast wrote to me about this because I was unaware of this. And he did it. He enjoyed it. And I listened to it and listen to some others. And it was a lot of fun. And this was not something I do every day in my life. So I said this is a golden opportunity to try it out.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, I'm glad you did make the decision to be part of this. And, Michael is a good friend of mine. I met him in Wilmington about 30 years ago, and we keep in touch. And it's so fun to watch him with his his new career in steel drum playing and I'm so happy for him and his success in that.

Susan Shertok:

His life story too is so interesting. He's a company man with DuPont for years but he loved music. And then he retired; he took an intensive course learned how to play the steel drums; took about two years to memorize 30 songs that he could play at a gig. And then he bought an island shirt and a straw hat. Now he goes out in style with his steel drums and brings so much joy to so many people. And he's living his dream and retirement and that is fabulous.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And he also mentioned during the show that he was a professional clown. And that immediately ... when he mentioned that I remember back seeing him in his his clown outfit. Yeah, he's a remarkable guy.

Susan Shertok:

I did not know that.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I actually worked at DuPont for a number of years. But I met him through a social group in Delaware. And I mean, a lot of people in Delaware work for DuPont. Yeah, he had a very non-comedic, very serious type of job at DuPont. And so like he said, you know, the clown kind of was the foil or the, the other personality to his straight laced DuPont corporate type of role. And that brought joy to a lot of people and that he's also doing that with his steel drum playing. So he's really a wonderful person. So Susan, before we get started with your song list, can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the background or the foreground of a day?

Susan Shertok:

It's definitely in the foreground. And there's a lot of things that I do with music. I play in a klezmer band where I worship, which is a lot of fun ... I'm also the choir director. So I'm always preparing songs for the next holiday, the next event that comes up, and I joined the local senior center, and they have a chorus there. So I sing with them. And we've gone out this month to nursing homes in the area and perform for all of the residents. And it brings joy into their lives. So that's a fun thing to do. I also go to a local high school where they have a Oregon there that is the fourth largest Oregon in the world Dickinson heights. And I enjoy the Oregon concerts too. I attend concerts in the libraries whenever they're having musical concerts. So I'm even writing all of these dates down on my calendar. And even in retirement. Music is keeping me busy. And I love to watch the voice on TV and America's Got Talent and American Idol, or a PBS showing music specialties. So there's, I seek out the music shows on TV. So I am always doing something with music, and then I can play it on my own too.

Aaron Gobler:

So it sounds like you're really surround yourself

Susan Shertok:

In March, for St. Patrick's Day, there's a local with it! Irish band that I've always admired. And I love Irish music, music that's lively and toe tapping. So I asked them if I can join them on some of the songs and they said yes. And I was in seventh heaven. So at the library for the first time, I joined my Irish band playing a couple of songs. And that was a nice experience too. They have all their own arrangements. And I've heard them so many times. I know their songs, their style, but I show them my arrangement and they're so quick to just help me out too. It was a great experience. You know, growing up as a child too ... my parents would always play the big band music at home. And we watched Lawrence Welk of course and we'd see Myron Floren; and Myron Floren actually came to visit the Delaware Accordion Club. So that was a thrill. And then growing up in the 50s and 60s, I certainly liked that kind of music; I like the doo-wop and I the innocence of the 60s songs love that. I couldn't tell you anything modern, but I'm a child of the 60s.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, Susan, as I noted a moment ago, we're going to hear your accordion playing. But I wanted to point out that this episode is extra special, because the three songs we hear today are actually your own performances. And the songs you'll be playing today are "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena", which was composed by Issachar Miron in 1941. And I hope I'm saying his name correctly. "Those Were the Days" by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse from around 1971. And "Never On Sunday", composed by Manos Hadjidakis in 1960. So I'm familiar with all of these tunes. And I'm really delighted to share your performances with our listeners. So first, we're going to take a listen to you playing "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena". Susan, I'm familiar with a song probably from Israeli dancing classes from my past. It certainly lends itself to dancing the Hora which for my listeners is a traditional Romanian dance which is quite popular in Israel, where the participants form a ring. And Susan, I'm eager to know what inspired you to include this song on your list and play for us.

Susan Shertok:

Well, I've known it for many years, and I tend to like the lively songs. So I play that and I know it's good dance song, and I use it so much. So I am, I guess very familiar with it, and it's easy to play. So I threw that in there.

Aaron Gobler:

You had also provided me a list of other songs, which we're not including today, but it seems like your repertoire includes a lot of Israeli-type dance songs or classic songs that people would dance to.

Susan Shertok:

Yeah, some of them are being in the klezmer band and my choir sings music and Hebrew. So I tend to do a lot of Jewish music. And my second love is Irish songs. And lively is just wonderful.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm guessing that the accordion can also be used to play things that are more somber, but I think traditionally people think about it in a more lively fashion.

Susan Shertok:

I would agree the lively sound is good. It just sounds good on that instrument. I play a lot of polkas being with the Delaware Accordion Club, we tend to play a lot of polkas. Also, although I didn't include one, I'll have to come back again and give you a polka.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, and I definitely think of the polka when I when I hear the accordion. The history of the accordion is European-based. So it's not a coincidence that it's something that's used in a lot of cultures, from Europe.

Susan Shertok:

Right. Right. In our accordion club, we do have a group of Italian players and a Polish players. And I think it's sad a lot of young children don't ask their parents for an accordion. That's probably on the bottom of their list. I think everyone wants to be a rock star and play the guitar. Even me too. But, but still is a lot of joy that you can find in the accordion,

Aaron Gobler:

It's hard to not have some kind of energy when you're playing that instrument.

Susan Shertok:

I think we're the life of the party.

Aaron Gobler:

I agree. Yeah. So let's jump into your next song, which is not immediately thought of as an accordion song. But it's a classic tune, which is titled "Those Were the Days". And this is the theme song from the 70's TV show "All in the Family". So let's give a listen to that. And we'll talk about it on the other side. Susan, I grew up watching All in the Family. And I'm sure I attempted to sing along with that song more than once. But your Edith Bunker impression is is spot-on. Each time I hear it brings a smile to my face. So what inspired you to include this song today? Yeah, I think I think you're spot-on. I can picture my mind

Susan Shertok:

I was just laughing at myself too. I tried it years ago. And I noticed people would react every time I sang that song. They'd all laugh so I knew I was good for a laugh. And I never listened to myself really singing. So I recorded myself one day and listened to myself sing the song. And I thought she's pretty good. So I kept it up. Long Archie and Edith sitting there at the piano. story. I kept it up, really not to showcase the accordion so much. But just as a little laugh, and I thought maybe your audience would laugh also and just enjoy it. I'm from New York. I think that show was supposed to be from Queens. Is it queens? New York? I'm thinking, being from New York to helped a lot. And the ability to screech it out as hard as you could, were key points that I could do. Yes, I do play the piano. Also, as I said, so most of the time, I am doing this song on the piano. But since I was playing the accordion on this episode, I thought I would stick with that. So that's the accordion version. For Christmas. I like to do the chipmunk song. And also, it's on the same basis because I get to screech out the high notes like a chipmunk on that part. And then the other one I'm working on is "Tip Toe Through the Tulips" by Tiny Tim. But that's still a work in progress. I don't know I was blessed with these weird voices. So I have fun with him.

Aaron Gobler:

So do you know how to play the ukulele? Have you tried that?

Susan Shertok:

No, I really never have.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, that because that's like, you know, that's Tiny Tim, his ukulele.

Susan Shertok:

You got the real instrument? Yeah, you can showcase that one.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I feel like he was this tall lanky guy. And he had like the smallest ukulele you could find. I think if I recall, visually, I'm trying to picture this.

Susan Shertok:

And he came out with a paper a brown paper bag and would take the ukulele out of it ... and play that song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah, I think I may have learned to try to learn it on the ukulele but I probably couldn't do justice to his to his voice. But maybe, maybe if we ever meet in person, I can accompany you with my ukulele and you can do the singing.

Susan Shertok:

That would be wonderful. And by then I'll have perfected the voice okay.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's a it's an interesting aspiration ... to sing like Tiny Tim ... I give you credit for that. So let's jump to your third song, "Never on Sunday". Let's give that a listen. Susan, this is such a beautiful tune. And the first time I heard it, it was by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. But it's been covered by by a lot of people. I don't know if it was composed with the accordion in mind, but it certainly sounds perfect on the accordion. Um, uh, why did you choose to include this song.

Susan Shertok:

I also liked the song very much. It does sound good on the accordion. I know I also I heard it as a child and liked it. And I was looking it up recently and Myron Floren did also play this song. So if anyone wants to look up his version of it online, okay, it is there. And it was just fun to do also.

Aaron Gobler:

So this was by a Greek composer. Through your repertoire of songs that you play on the accordion, do you find a particular ethnicity running through a lot of them? Or is it really all over the map?

Susan Shertok:

I do play a lot of ethnic songs. There's a book by Kamen who puts out international songs. So we use that book a lot. And there are Ukrainian songs, and they're Russian songs from every different ethnicities. So we enjoyed doing that. And most people may not be familiar with it, but it's still they all sound great. They're wonderful songs.

Aaron Gobler:

And you know, a lot of polka like, you know, straight on polka music?

Susan Shertok:

I've got enough in my songbook, if you could see my living room with music. There's certainly a ton of music books here. And what is the focus book and there's about 20 in there, but they're most the most popular polka songs in there, like the Pennsylvania Polka, the Beer Barrel Polka, the Tick-Tock Polka. So most of the songs that are in there, people know, we like playing that also, it just lifts your spirits and toe tapping dancing music.

Aaron Gobler:

So can you read the sheet music then for the songs?

Susan Shertok:

Sure, yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

And is there anything special about the sheet music as it would pertain to playing the accordion? Or do you just follow the notes on the piano part? And how would you say reading sheet music for an accordion is different than for another instrument?

Susan Shertok:

Well, it's really not. Most instruments that can play melody and the bass and chords, were reading whatever's on the sheet music. They don't put all those extra things, the flourishes and embellishments on them. So you're free to interpret it that way. You might add a lot of things, trills, frills, thrills, glissandos, all kinds of things that is not written down. So you have that kind of freedom. For other instruments that just play one voice like a violin was just the melody there. You know what I mean? Yeah, or background that you're just doing that much.

Aaron Gobler:

And when you get into your mind that you want to play a new, a certain song that you haven't played before? How long does it usually take for you to get comfortable playing it? With or without the sheet music?

Susan Shertok:

Well, I certainly would play it a few times to really get to know it very, very well. I play "Hava Nagila". I think I play that all my life. So I don't have to look at music for that one anymore. It's there. It's ingrained in my blood. Yes, yeah. But for other songs, you know, with a few times practicing it, I'm sure you could put the music away and then play it.

Aaron Gobler:

But you find that most of the time you're out playing with music, except for the ones that you've kind of gotten into you're like, muscle memory in your brain.

Susan Shertok:

I know. You know, it's true. Like the older we get, we don't want to make any booboos. So having the sheet music in front of you really helps. Yeah, it's just a safety net. If the music's in front of me, I'll probably not make as many mistakes if I have to really recall it. And it gets worse as you grow older. I will tell you that.

Aaron Gobler:

So Susan, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections or, or any answers to questions I didn't ask you.

Susan Shertok:

I wanted to mention that. I became president of the Delaware Accoridion Club a few years ago. And again, some of our members are in their 70s and 80s. Some are passing on, and I'm not getting a lot of young people to join. And it's kind of sad for us, we don't want to see the club end, next year will be 25 years that the club has been together. And we share a lot of good memories. And I'm trying to recruit new people, too. So if anyone out there would love to play the accordion, you can share that on Zoom. Now you don't have to come to Delaware. So they can join us that way. But I encourage everyone again, learn an instrument, it's the best thing you'll ever do in your life.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you. That's I think that's wonderful advice. Is there a website for this organization that you can mention?

Susan Shertok:

Delaware Accordion Club dot com. And we're also on Facebook.

Aaron Gobler:

To reiterate, your saying that it's really it's a Zoom-focused organization. So people are at least right now, right? So people can be anywhere in the world and be a part of this.

Susan Shertok:

Yeah. So we used to meet in person. I'm on Delaware before the pandemic. But for the last two years, we can't do that anymore. So we're sticking to Zoom.

Aaron Gobler:

I hope my listeners are inspired to learn more about the accordion. Maybe you have a relative who has one, and it's kinda sittin' around ... maybe you can borrow it ...

Susan Shertok:

... and check the attic and check the basement.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Ask around some people may have one that's that that's usable, that they're not using and just to play around on it. I think that'd be a great endeavor. So Susan, this has been a lot of fun. It's been a unique episode, and that we had your actual performances of the songs, and I got to learn some more about the accordion. And it definitely was a lot of fun listening to your, to your own playing the accordion.

Susan Shertok:

Thank you so much for having me as a guest, and I really enjoyed it. And it's my first podcast this is a record!

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I'm glad that I've been able to provide that opportunity for you to be on a podcast. And I hope that just like Michael inspired you to be on the show that one of your friends or family who listened to this episode also are encouraged to be a guest and with. With that in mind, I'd like to say to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot Show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 44 : My Three Songs with Michael Cook

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 44. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Michael Cook. Mike is a good friend of mine from my days in Wilmington, Delaware in the 1990s. And we've kept in touch over Facebook for the past 13 years. During his retirement, he's become a professional steel drum player. Now, how are you today, Mike?

Michael Cook:

I'm doing great Aaron, how are you?

Aaron Gobler:

I'm doing well. Thank you ... enjoying my Saturday. Now, Mike, I've always been a fan of the steel drum and ... it has such a distinct sound. Do you think you could regale us with some of your playing?

Michael Cook:

Oh gosh, I would love to. In fact, I can play for you a clip of me playing likely my favorite song that I performed. It's a fast paced song. It's was popularized in the 1950s or so by Harry Belafonte. Okay, the song is called "Shake Señora", although it goes by two different titles and other title is it goes by is "Jump In the Line". And so if you may, please roll it.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay, awesome. (Short clip of the Michael's performance.) Mike, that's, that's great. I really love that. Can you tell me like how you got into steel drum playing?

Michael Cook:

Well, thanks for your enjoyment of the song. And thank you for the way, by the way for having me on your terrific show. I really am looking forward to this. And I greatly appreciate it. So thanks, Aaron ... how I got into a steel drum, you know, all my life, I have been what I call myself a frustrated musician, I really never played an instrument before in my life ... until my 60th birthday. I've always loved the sound of the steel drum, it always is associated in my mind and for many other people as being on vacation in the Caribbean with the warmth of the sun on you and a and a cool, tasty drink in your hand without a worry in the world. And so when I play a steel drum, it transports me to that kind of thought and existence. And a lot of people who've heard me have said the same thing ... that many people say I feel like I'm on vacation when I listened to you. At age 60, I very serendipitously happened to go with my wife to a steel drum festival that was taking place one Saturday in April at our local University of Delaware campus. And I just loved what was going on with the different bands that were playing; a lot of high school bands. And I went up to the organizer, a professor, who is there, Harvey Price is his name. And I said, hey, I'm interested in learning how to play the steel drum. And he said, Well, you're not going to believe this; but in two months from now, I'm holding a one-week immersion class a 12-hour days for five days. And I said well sign me up. And I went to that. And on the very first day, I got to put mallets in my hand and play my first notes on a steel drum. And so that was the beginning. And on the second day, I got addicted immediately and said, give me a drum I want to take it home. And I started practicing and I set some goals for myself where I said, I'm going to practice every day. And somewhere in my near future I hope to be able to perform music, gigs paid gigs. And I worked up to playing ... memorizing actually, enough songs to play a four-hour gig ... which I have done many times. Now along the way it's interesting because I don't know how to read music, read sheet music. So every song ... and I've got 101 songs now under my belt ... they're all memorized. And so I just learned to play them takes a couple hours or longer depending on the song. And then once muscle memory takes over, I can play a song and be like in some sort of zone, because I'm not even thinking about it, I'm just thinking about, you know, what I'm gonna make for dinner or something like that, right? And my arms just do the rest. So that's sort of been my journey. Last month, I performed my three hundredth paid performance. It's been phenomenal. And if any of your listeners want to hear more, see more, just look up my band name. I'm basically a one-man band, and my band name is called Steel Happiness. So if you go to steelhappiness.com, or go on YouTube and look up Steel Happiness, you'll see lots of music videos that I've made along the way,

Aaron Gobler:

Do you have a story about some gig that was outrageous, or something that you never expected?

Michael Cook:

Yes, this this might sound a little kind of strange to some people. But I'll actually label it with the adjective most memorable. Before the pandemic, about 80% of my clients were senior centers, senior communities. So I would go and entertain their folks that live there, the residents. And there was one occasion where I went to a retirement center where I was at their memory care unit, and I was playing songs ... and a lot of people probably are familiar with the fact that as people age, and of course, might lose some of their memory and cognition. One of the things that they still have deep in their brains is music. And so they will respond to ... resonate to ... music. And that's where my memorable event occurred. On one of my performances, I had gone to this retirement community was in the memory care unit, I set up in their space, and waited for all of the guests to arrive, and most of them were wheeled in by nurses on wheelchairs, and they put them all in a circle around me, and I started performing. And about 15 minutes into it, there was one gentleman in his wheelchair, and he started to tap his foot on his chair, and then started to tap his hand in the beat. And all of the nurses dropped, their jaws dropped, this guy has never made any movement or any acknowledgment, he basically had been, for lack of a better term, in a vegetative state for a long, long time. And so what he experienced was an awakening. And they were all like flabbergasted. So to me that it sounds kind of maybe silly or something, but to me of all of my performances, that, to me was one of my most memorable to see that my music, woke this guy up from whatever condition he was in.

Aaron Gobler:

It underscores how music and rhythm matches something in our ... or in just an animalistic thing. I mean, we've seen videos of animals and cockatoos just dancing. And it's just some kind of core thing that's in us. And, and it's a representation. We know, people who are creating the music also have it, it's a representation of their own rhythm. It is remarkable, like you said, it's, it's been shown how much music can impact people who have cognitive and are differently-abled in those ways.

Michael Cook:

Sure, you just mentioned the word animal. And it's funny dogs respond positively to my steel drum playing, I'll set up my steel drum, let's say, in a part of my house. And when I play, my dogs will walk underneath and literally lie right underneath the drum. And I know they recognize musical sounds, and they like that. But I think what's happening is the bass reverberation, you know, hits their chest. And so I suspect that dogs and animals in general, sort of like that reverberating sense. I've taken my drum to like the park or to friends houses for backyard parties. And if they have a dog, the same thing happens. The dog will walk over and lay down underneath the drum.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you for that story. And for that little snippet. And then I want to go on YouTube and start watching some of your recordings. I know on Facebook, you've been sharing some of your performances, your live performances. That's really cool. Yeah. Thank you.

Michael Cook:

In fact, another memorable occurrence was only two or three weeks ago. I happened to be on vacation with my wife down in the Caribbean. And I brought my steel drum with me. And I had befriended a couple years ago, a local band there. And when I went to one of their performances, and then during the break, I went up talk with them, they let me noodle around on their drum a bit. And when I was down there, I told them in advance, I'm coming and they said, Oh, you got to stop by one of our gigs and join us. And so I brought my drum with me. So I got a chance to play with them. And I played... did a performance with them of Michael Jackson's song, Billie Jean. It was about four-and-a-half minutes song. And when I finished the adrenaline in me, it was so so wonderful that it was such a memorable experience. And it's kind of surreal. I'm glad my wife captured it on video. Those are probably the top two memorable ones. But thank you for allowing me to do that little diversion there.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Sure. I'm very interested in just talking for a moment about your experience performing with these other players. And that sounds like mostly you're doing is solo. And then you just describe for me, this visceral, you know, reaction to playing with along with others. So do you attribute that to some kind of communal music making? Is that what where the energy came from?

Michael Cook:

Yes. To play with others. And these guys are so much better than me, playing all their lives, and they've got the spirit in them ... just like I've acquired. By the way in the Caribbean, the word for that musical spirit is called Jumbee. And so they've got the Jumbee. I got the Jumbee. Yeah. So I was prepared to be thrown off-key or thrown off-note by them playing alongside of me and a little bit of improvising that they were doing. But I but I wasn't distracted at all. So that was part of the surreal nature that I hit every no correctly with all the distractions. I was just so happy about what happened.

Aaron Gobler:

Nice. Yeah. That's exciting. Mike, I'm really happy you decided to be a guest on the show. And like what inspired you to be on the show?

Michael Cook:

Well, the pandemic really turned me into a hermit. And I don't really have anybody to talk to I'm so lonely. No, no, no; I'm teasing. I'm just been fascinated by your format, and listening to some of the interviews, fascinated with this whole concept of the My Three Songs, and I really enjoyed the variety of songs people have chosen. And when you first started to promote the My Three Songs format, and encouraging people to join you as guests, I thought, Oh, I think I'd like to do that. And I, for the longest time, I kept thinking, I love music, but I don't know that I could really pick three songs that are my favorite. Because over time it changes. You know, this might be my favorite song for a couple of months or a year or so then another song becomes my favorite song. Even as I learned to play songs on the steel drum, they become my favorites. And I just get just obsessive about it, where I'll play the song like three or four times every night because I just love that song. I just wanted to participate ... and so thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to do that. So I was happy to, you know, to finally nail down what I consider to be my three favorite songs. Although I would like to label that more my three most memorable songs.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah! Mike, before we get started with your song list, can you give me some background about how music has

Michael Cook:

My Mom and Dad used to play the stereo all the fit in your life? time when I was growing up, and being that they grew up during the 1930s and 40s, my Mom and Dad would always play certain types of music, they would play big band music, you know, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, all of that. Lots of opera, lots and lots of classical music. And lots and lots of Broadway show tunes, you know Rodgers and Hammerstein and all of that. And of course, some Yiddisha records ... So maybe through osmosis or whatever, my favorite music actually is big band music. I go nuts over all of that stuff. And so I just love to listen to that. In fact, I've incorporated several songs into my performances that are big band music because certainly the seniors that I played to, when I do those retirement centers, they love that kind of music.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm really eager to jump into your choices. You have chosen "Für Elise" by Ludwig von Beethoven, as performed by Chinese pianist Lang Lang; and that was from 2020. "You Are So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker from 1974. And the "Three Stooges" theme, which the best I can describe is by various performers originally recorded or, you know, composed in some fashion in 1922. So, this is certainly the most eclectic list I've had on the show so far. And I am super curious how you came up with this group of songs. So I'm eager for us both listening to the songs together and and knowing like I said, you know why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's jump in. The first song in your list is Beethoven's Für Elise", performed by Lang Lang. Mike, this is the first time I've included Beethoven in the show. And, and I'm eager to know like what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Michael Cook:

Yeah. Excuse me, as I sort of catch my breath here. I'm not embarrassed to say that it brought tears to my eyes to listen to that. Well, this this, I said, it's one of my most memorable songs. But I probably can also include as my favorite that label. When growing up, my Mom would occasionally play the piano. And the song that she played often was this song, "Für Elise". And so when I hear that song, it makes me think of my mother. Now, my mom passed away in 1991, from pancreatic cancer ... it was kind of quick, over just a few months. Just like, maybe a month or two or three, after my mom passed, I met my wife through a blind date, actually. And about a year later, we were married. And my, of course, my mother was not able to be there with me and walk down the aisle in, in physical in a physical state. But in order to include her in my wedding, I walked down the aisle with my father. And we had a piano player in the room and the piano player played this song, "Für Elise", and it was my way of including my mother in the ceremony.

Aaron Gobler:

That's, that's very touching. And for me and underscores just how music can attach us or you know, to people and places and times and, and such and how powerful that can be that, you know, we can hear a song and think of a person and in this case, the song was there, representing your mom in spirit.

Michael Cook:

Well, well, thank you. It was a special moment. And thank you for letting me share that song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Yeah. So Mike, your next song is "You Are So Beautiful", by Joe Cocker. Let's give that a listen, and we'll talk about it on the other side. Mike, this song is so touching and really simple. I mean, it doesn't have very many lyrics to it. And listening to it closely hearing Joe Cocker; his voice so soft and soothing at the beginning. And then you hear all these different dimensions to the sound of his voice. I discovered this was co-written by Billy Preston. And actually, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys was also involved in the song too. But that's all me wonking out on the trivia part of it. So what inspired you to include this on your list?

Michael Cook:

When my wife and I were getting ready, planning our wedding, there was some point where the band that we had hired said, Okay, there's going to be your dance?. And we'll call you out and say, you know, the new Mr. and Mrs. Cook will come out and do their dance, and what song do you want us to play? And I looked at my wife and she looked at me and we were like, I don't know. We we've never had a you know our quote our song before. I think that the whole concept of the marital our song really goes back to, you know, years and years ago, maybe to our parents' age and even earlier, where, you know, dancing was like the main thing that people did. They went out dancing on Saturday night, they, they didn't have the internet, they didn't have TV and they didn't have all the other things to occupy their time or diversions. And so couples often had, you know, quote our song. So my wife and I said, we'll get back to you on that. We told the bandleader ... and then all of a sudden ... later on ... you know, I don't remember whether it was the next hour or the next day or the next week or whatever, but we said this will be our song because this is how I feel about my wife and this is how she feels about me. So when I hear this song I remember our wedding and dancing alone with her just staring at her beautiful face and and that's why I chose this song. Yeah, now you're gonna make ... you're gonna make me cry again!

Aaron Gobler:

Ohhh. I hope to make you laugh with my story because I have a story similar to yours about the the song ... that ... the first dance song and that we had a disc jockey ... and I'd already been disc jockey prior to this so I was very careful. And we were very ... we gave the disc jockey an exact schedule of what what songs to play when and such. And the movie Groundhog Day had come out around that time too. And so the song "I Got You, Babe", was a song that I think was on the radio at six o'clock in the morning every time that Bill Murray woke up. And so we actually thought it'd be fun to use that song as our song to dance to because we were not like ... it we had ... like I said, you know, we hadn't like thought about it ahead of time. We're like, okay, and the disc jockey was like, Are you sure you want to use the song? We're like, yes, believe me. Everything I wrote down here on the schedule and what songs we wanted whatever. We have thought through what we want this and so we did actually have our first dance to "I Got You, Babe."

Michael Cook:

That's a Sonny and Cher favorite.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes! But I don't know how many people actually have that as their wedding song! But we didn't wake up the next morning, hearing that song again, like in Groundhog Day. But it was it was repopularized by that movie. So if I ever forget what year we got married, I guess I can go back and, and and find out when Groundhog Day came out. And it was probably that same year. Yeah, it's it's remarkable how then, you know, your wedding song is something that's stuck in your mind for the rest of your life.

Michael Cook:

As I reviewed these songs yesterday, and it occurred to me oh my goodness, there's a similarity in that the first song, "Für Elise" is a song that makes me think about my Mom. And then this song, "You Are So Beautiful", makes me think about my wife. So it's, you know, the two, you know, most wonderful women in my life. So it's kind of an interesting thing, how that it landed in my mind that way.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah! And I'm not exactly sure how we can use what you just said as a segue to the third song, which is probably the most eclectic song that I've had on the show. But we'll just ... suffice it to say we are going to play the third song on your list, which is the "Three Stooges" theme song, and this is probably the shortest song I've had on the show, too, I think it clocks in at minute, something. Let's give that a listen, I'm eager to hear what you have to say about it. Mike, I'm going to take a wild guess and guess that you're NOT crying during the song. Right?

Michael Cook:

Exactly.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm not sure what else to say. But like, ask you why you chose to include this song?

Michael Cook:

Well, first thank you. First I want to say that they twice now you use the word eclectic in this interview. I want to commend you, that's, I mean, do the math. That's a 25 cent college word times two; you get 50 cents already!

Aaron Gobler:

Is it esoteric as well?

Michael Cook:

Now you're up to 75 cents; keep going. The reason I chose this song. First off, I gotta start by saying I was born in the month of June. I'm a I'm a Gemini, okay. And the Gemini is the zodiac sign for The Twins. And I say that because I am a twin in that I have two personalities. At least two there's the very serious side of me the very corporate side I made it through a 30 year career at the DuPont Company. So you know where you got to be super serious. And then there's the the the silly fun side of me the The clown side. In fact, you recall perhaps that I'm a professional clown.

Aaron Gobler:

As soon as you said the word clown, I immediately remembered seeing you as a clown as well. But I hadn't thought about it in, you know, 30 years or something, so yeah,

Michael Cook:

Exactly. But yeah, there was a time back in graduate school where I needed to keep my sanity while working on my Ph.D. And two Masters, I can, I can mention that. So I took some courses to just keep my mind from going crazy. I took some extra courses at the local community college, I took bartending and acting and I took a clown class. And so I spent a year-and-a-half in class learning how to be a professional clown; and I did a bunch of performances way back then. I have not put on my clown outfit in years and years and years. But that that's just that, that plays to the silly side of me; the playful side. And so, comedy in general, is a huge part of me and who I am and my background. You know, I listened to all of the comedy recordings growing up, you know, Tom Lehrer, Bill Cosby, of course, Flip Wilson, you know, all all of the comedians that were out there ... and memorized so many of those routines. Spending 30 years at DuPont I had sort of turned that side of me off, and just stayed sort of the corporate kind of person. But then when I retired it was very I was very lucky to be able to find that silly side of me again and go back to that. And so why do I choose the Three Stooges song?? It's because that just touches the child and me the kid in me and growing up ... gosh, on Saturdays I was always listening to and watching the Three Stooges cartoons in the afternoon, late at night etc. Here in Delaware every Saturday night at six o'clock they have two hours of Three Stooges, and so there I am cooking dinner and watching Three Stooges still. I love those guys. Yeah, so that's why I chose the song is because it it just really touches they kid in me; the part the part that the silly guy that had to stay stay professional for 30 years. You said now I'm retired. I can go back to the fun guy!

Aaron Gobler:

Have you considered doing steel drum playing in your clown outfit?

Michael Cook:

Yes, I have never done it, but I've considered it because that would that would truly make me you know, that would probably be the world's only publicly-performing clown. Steel Drummer.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah ... that's funny that I hadn't I totally forgotten about you as a clown. And it all flooded back to me, as you mentioned the word clown. I'm like, wait, I remember that.

Michael Cook:

Yeah. Yeah ... that's sort of part of me that I learned all the skills for clowning with, of course magic in general buffoonery, unicycling, stilt walking all of that, that I, I had learned that's, that was an important and fun part of part of my life. So the Three Stooges Yeah, they're my guys. Woo-woo-woo-woo.

Aaron Gobler:

I grew up watching Three Stooges. And on the surface, it just it looks like these three goofballs just kind of, you know, bumbling around. But when you go and read, you know, with the ... through the magic of Wikipedia, go and research them and their, you know, their Vaudeville careers before they were in this ... and that they were already established comedic actors / comedians, before they even were on this show. Very talented performers. And there's a whole history of the family and who was related to whom. So, Mike, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like, thoughts you had? While we were listening to the songs or answers to questions that I didn't ask you?

Michael Cook:

I think you've done a great job of covering everything with me. So I can't think of anything else. Although, you know, I think it's kind of funny. I know myself, of course, that that once we finished this interview, although there was another thing I could have said, or, you know, there was another song that I wanted to give you that would that would have floated to near the top. But it's so ... and like I say, the songs that every time I learn a new song, it automatically becomes my new favorite song. And in fact, my assignment for today is to learn a new song. And I've already picked it out. And so as soon as we're done with our discussion here, I'm going to start learning this song how to play it and it's from South Pacific, the the movie musical, and it's "Some Enchanted Evening". So I'm gonna learn that but with a little bit of a jazz a flavor.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay. That's awesome. Yeah, Good luck with that. That's that's a wonderful song. There's a lot of great songs from that show. Well, Mike, this has been a lot of fun. It's great catching up with you. I know I saw you in person a few years ago. But really, it's been like, almost 30 years or so since; 30 years ish? And so I really had a nice time catching up and going through your eclectic list of songs, and having some esoteric conversation around them.

Michael Cook:

Now you're up to a dollar fifty.

Aaron Gobler:

So I hope you enjoy yourself today. It sounds like you had fun.

Michael Cook:

I did, indeed. Thank you. This was better than I expected. That didn't come off right! I know I enjoyed myself, but I wasn't sure what to expect. And I'm very ... I'll put it this way, I'm very happy with how things came out. This is a lot of fun. And I really want to thank you for allowing me to share not only my favorite songs, or memorable songs, but also to share my my thoughts in some of my spirit with you and the audience.

Aaron Gobler:

That's awesome. And, and thank you again for your time this morning. And to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 43 : My Three Songs with Jacob Hanson

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake, and welcome, everybody to Episode 43. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Jacob Hanson. Jacob is a star athlete and personal trainer in the San Francisco Bay area. One thing I'm certain you don't know about him is that he taught me how to jump rope at the ripe age of 54 ... How are you today, Jacob? And can you tell our listeners about your past track achievements, and like what you're doing nowadays?

Jacob Hanson:

Hi, Aaron, thank you for having me on the show. I'm very excited. I'm doing well today. Things are great. And I'm really looking forward to this interview. My past track achievements ... I went to UC Berkeley, and I ran the 400 hurdles. And I became an All American at UC Berkeley. And yeah, I ran fast ran over hurdles did some long-jumping, all the sprinting events, and then ended my career with track and field and became a personal trainer. And so now I work with clients all around the East Bay. I teach them everything that I know about track warmups and exercise and fitness and lifestyle, and even jumping rope.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. And, and this jumping rope activity ... this is you know, pre pandemic when I was actually ... we were actually physically in a gym at the time. And you were very big on teaching me how to do hurdle type motions, and you thought maybe I can possibly enter some kind of competition. Is that right? Definitely.

Jacob Hanson:

I think at any age, you can still run, you can still enter a competition, you can still compete. But yeah, hurdle drills go much beyond just being on the track, it's a lot of mobility; opens up your hips, it's really important for everyone to do that. And it's just a fun way, you know, thinking of that barrier, that hurdle? Most people is it's a very complex, scary. And so you know, introducing that to you and showing you and other clients that, you know, it's just a little thing that you go around. It's not too it's not too challenging.

Aaron Gobler:

And I never thought that I would actually be able to jump rope. I felt that trying to jump rope just solidified or cemented for me my lack of certain coordination. And once I actually was able to do it i i felt like a completely different person.

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah. It's, it's something that you think is so simple. You know, riding a bike, jumping rope, things that you do as a kid, you don't really think about it. But when you have to relearn those things, you find out that there's much more involved. And something that seems so simple, can actually be very difficult to achieve. But once you do, I mean, yeah, it's amazing. I think we got can we get to something like 50 Jump ropes? Yeah. Yeah, it's crazy. We went from ... yeah, barely getting one to go into 50. And, yeah, that's that that feeling is amazing.

Aaron Gobler:

And I'm going to assume just like, you know, riding a bicycle, I had never really jumped rope before. So if I, I know, if I get on a bicycle and haven't ridden the bicycle for like, 20 years, I would be able to figure it out pretty fast. I'm guessing and hoping that if I were to pick up jump rope again, after these two years that enough of it would come back to me quickly enough. But I haven't tried that yet.

Jacob Hanson:

I think we should. Yeah. Let's do it. Let's jump.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Okay, maybe we can have some kind of jump rope session where we're both in person and you can encourage me to, to jump rope again. And have my glory days back.

Jacob Hanson:

I'm for it; with a little reggae.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. With reggae music. So Jacob, I'm really happy you decided to be on the show. I'm really kind of thrilled actually. And I know you and I have had a lot of opportunity in the past to talk about music, but I still remain curious about your music tastes. And so I'm psyched to do more of a deep dive on your music tastes. But what inspired you to be on the show?

Jacob Hanson:

Well, I've listened to the show. I really like the idea. I like the idea of my three songs you you share. And you'll find through the songs that I chose that you can see that that's part of the theme too is sharing your experience with other people, sharing your culture with other people, sharing what you love with other people. And you're doing that here. And, you know, through this show, you can connect with people, you may have never, you walked past them on the street, never talked to them, you may have thought you had never nothing in common with them. And then you listen to the music and you realize that, you know, this is where we're much more similar than we thought, or you connect to that person in a way that you would have never connected. So I think the show is awesome. And I'm excited to share some of the music ... that I spent a long time since since you started ... I've been thinking, what would I do if I was on this show? What songs and then I go through all my music? And I find okay, what songs would I share? Because you could only choose three, that's a difficult task, right? So I'm banking on ... that I'll be back on the show. And I can share three more, three more, and we'll get deeper and deeper. And I'll be able to expand to different types of music, also.

Aaron Gobler:

I really believe that music tastes, are things sometimes people hold very close to their chest. They don't want to show or talk a lot about what they like about music, what music they like, for fear that somebody else might judge them on their taste, or maybe wonder why they like that particular kind of music. And then there's something really rewarding about you hearing somebody else talk about music and realizing you're really connecting with them or that they love the same things that you do. And you don't ... you feel that connection, like you were describing. My guests have generally been people who are very passionate about music, and so they could speak hours about music; and the listeners, a lot of them really can appreciate that passion and really get and really vibe with that. So Jacob, before we get started with your song lists, can you tell me like how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or the background of each day?

Jacob Hanson:

Music for me, it wasn't something that I sought out at a young age. And we've had conversations before where you'll you'll tell me about music and I'm completely lost. I don't know the artists, I don't know the history. I don't know who they are. I may have heard the song before. But I think the way that music came to me, it wasn't about those things. And I didn't seek them out. As a as a kid, I would hear beats and I would hear the rhythm and I would hear the sounds. And I didn't really focus on lyrics much as through my history of music. It's interesting because I chose songs specifically about their lyrics in these three in this in this choice here. But I also tried to find a blend of still having what is kind of most important to me, which is the music in the background and, and being able to feel and kind of vibe with the music. I also ... so I'm in my mid 30s and I don't really listen to the same music that people in around me listen to so I'm kind of the oddball when it comes to music I listen to ... like this is a lot of older reggae from 60s 70s 80s I don't listen a lot to the music of today. I listen to music that is in foreign languages that I don't even know what they're saying. And there was a couple of really good songs that I liked there. And I got a little nervous because if I put those in ... like three, I thought, well, what if they're actually saying something really bad? I did not know. I'm sitting here jammin' into it. And all of a sudden, it's like, Wait a minute. So yeah, I always found that it was hard to connect with other people my age when it comes to music because I don't really listen to what most people listen to. So, um, you know, being able to share that a little bit kind of and show why it's important to me, I think it's gonna be exciting here. Music today; music is pretty much in everything that I'm doing, but it's usually in the background. So with personal training, I'm working with different clients throughout the day. And I've found that music really helps with our sessions. And so I like to have music in the background. And that's where finding music with good beats is kind of important because you can't you're focusing on exercising, I'm focusing on coaching or training and you can't focus on the lyrics per se, but you can hear the beat, and the beat can motivate you or the beat can can completely change the mood of what's going on. And so I really try to connect with each client. And I try to find what that client likes or what that client may need through the music. And I try to put that on and create an atmosphere that really makes them feel welcome and positive and happy. And you know, excited to work out. More excited to be in this experience with me for that given amount of time. And so the music is on all day long. And I'm slowly learning a little bit more because of that ... I'm learning. Clients will ask, well, who's the artist and this song because I really like the song. And so I'll have to look up and see who is actually playing. But yeah, it's my Spotify, if you look at what my top songs are of the year, it's all over the place, because it's songs that I've played with clients, and not necessarily my music. But yeah, I just have this huge collection now of very specific for certain clients or for certain moods. And so I just kind of go through all that from time to time.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it certainly underscores how influential or instrumental music is to body movement, I used to do some disc jockey work and was very conscious of the beats per minute, and, and how that impacted people and how it matched their heart rates, or how it could cause them to increase their heart rate and the pace of their dancing and movement and such. So, so much of a connection between the tempo, and rhythm of music and, and physical movement, there's definitely that connection, like you're describing.

Jacob Hanson:

One of the earliest memories that I have about music is and how it connects with you. We didn't listen to a lot of music at home, in the car it'd be talk shows or other things like that. And whenever I would be, whenever I get in a bad mood, whether it was in, you know, an argument with my parents or a disagreement or upset about rules that they ... whatever it would be, if I was in a bad mood, my dad had this strategy. And he would turn on blues music, and then leave. And I would be they're upset that I have to do the dishes or mad that my whole life is ruined, because I had to do this chore. And you're listening to this song about a person who lost his job, he lost his wife, he's got no money, he's getting kicked out of his house. And you're sitting there like, I'm mad about the dishes. And this poor guy lost everything. And he come back 45 minutes later, you can't be mad and you can't be upset. And that was a strategy that worked. And it still works today, when when I turn on blues music, if I'm sad or something and you hear that, it's like, you know, this little problem that I have is really not, it's not worth the mood that I'm in, it's not worth, you know, what I'm putting myself through or putting everyone else through. Like, there's bigger problems out there. This is just a little a little thing. And so that was one of the first things I remember about how music can change your mood and how you feel. And it can take you out from something that's you know, took you so low, it can take you right out of that very quickly.

Aaron Gobler:

I really enjoyed that story because it shows how hearing a narrative through a song can shift your your attitude very quickly. Definitely. So before we jump into your list of songs, because we were talking about personal trainers and personal training and such, I do want to make a shout out to one of my earlier guests, Mamie, who actually met through these Zoom classes that you were doing when the pandemic began. And so shout-out to Mamie, you know, I did a shout-out to you, Jacob during her show. So I'm making a shout-out to her on yours.

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, yeah, you did. I believe you guys. At that point. You were asking for me to get on the show. I did. I was like, Yo, like you guys were like we're excited for for my show, too. Yeah. Jacob, Ziggy Marley's dad was Bob Marley, who is considered

Aaron Gobler:

So it took 30 episodes! But here you are, or something like that, right? So it was worth it was worth the wait. And we know that made me was very, very excited when she heard you were gonna be on the show. We're just gonna do our best to to really impress, maybe, and maybe encourage her to come back on again. So, so let's jump into your list Jacob. That's why we're here. The songs you chose were "Love Is My Religion", by Ziggy Marley from 2006; "Good Vibes" by Rebelution, from 2012; and "Peace, Love and Harmony" by Culture from 1988. All these songs were new to me, and they're all reggae tunes. The only reggae I've had on the show so far was a song by The Police. So I'm eager to for us both to listen to these songs and I'm interested in knowing, why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's jump in with the first song which is "Love Is My Religion" by Ziggy Marley. one of the pioneers of reggae, and I know a few Bob Marley songs. But until this week, I don't think I'd heard any Ziggy Marley songs. What inspired you to include this song on your list?

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, this song from Ziggy Marley, it has a very clear message, I think. And I think that it's very straightforward, about love, and taking love as a religion as a belief as a way of life. And applying that, to me just applying that to how you live. And I think it's a very simple way to live life, if you live with love. If you love the planet, you're going to treat the planet well, if you love the trees, you're going to treat the trees well. If you love a person, you're going to treat them well. You don't treat somebody bad that you love. So it's just a motto and a message to, to remember. And I listened to it periodically. Just to remind myself that, you know, if you do everything with love, you're not going to go wrong.

Aaron Gobler:

It's interesting that his lyrics, he says, "Loves is my religion / you can take it or leave it / you don't have to believe it" ... in that, like he's saying, Love is MY religion. This is how I operate. And you know, it's up to you what you want to do. But he's he's kind of exclaiming this that this is the way he wants to be. Is that do you get that same feeling?

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, I get that feeling. And I think also when you when you talk about religions, a lot of religions are pushed on people. So I think it's, I think this line is, you know, this is the way I want to live my life. And you can live this way too, you can see what it means and why it's beneficial and how it's good. If you don't want that, that's fine. You can live your life how you want to, and I'll respect that too. But I think the message of pushing things on people is not always the right strategy. It's not the best way for everyone.

Aaron Gobler:

And that religion we often associate that with, with what you hold as a core beliefs and, and how you live in some kind of spiritual way. And so by him stating that love is his religion ... right ... that's kind of enforcing or reinforcing this idea that that's where his core and his spirit and his how he lives his life is based on love.

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so when it comes to reggae, I kind of have ... these three songs are in my collection that I have in my folder is called my Bible. And I think with reggae, there's so many different types of reggae, and it started from Roots reggae, which was Bob Marley, and I couldn't get Bob Marley in on this list. And so I feel a little bit better that I have his son. So there is some Bob Marley on this list, because that's kind of where it did start a little bit with Bob Marley for me and with reggae. And is expanded. As I learned more about reggae and the different types of reggae, it's expanded, all across the board. And so I do have this collection of kind of lyrics that I think you can you can take a lot of reggae lyrics, and you could turn that into a Bible on a way a way to live your life on a way to treat others on it I think that there's enough there that I could just take these poems and and live my life based off of these poems and be a good person and so this is one of those top songs that really just shows what that means.

Aaron Gobler:

The original Roots reggae ... is that ... I mean I'm now thinking of the song by Bob Marley ... that song "One Love", which is probably one of the more famous songs ... "Let's get together and feel all right", you know it's all love-based. Is that what you say that the Roots reggae ... is that really the core? This idea of love and peace; is that what you would say would be the main core of that?

Jacob Hanson:

It's part of it. So Roots reggae is it's a branch of reggae was the original rake. Okay, that started and Bob Marley was one of the originators of that style of music. Culture came a little ... so, Culture is going to be the third song ... but they came a little bit later but they're also part of that Roots reggae and you can kind of you'll hear the different styles today in these music. So this song came out in 2006. So it's more of the newer version of reggae. This is the next generation of how reggae evolved. But Roots reggae was the beginning and it kind of it started with ... the lyrics were talking about love, they're talking about the suffering that's happening. They're talking about pride. They're talking about, you know, corrupt governments and racial oppression, all of these things are coming out of Roots reggae, because those are the messages they wanted people to hear, like we're suffering, we just want to have equal rights, we just want to like, be able to sit and love our neighbor and have no problems. And so a lot of the lyrics from Roots reggae is just about those basic principles of being an equal human being. And the crazy thing is that from the 60s when they started that those are the same exact things that are still being asked of today. And so I can connect to it on the on the Roots reggae level, I can connect to what Bob Marley was asking and what the what Culture was asking. During that time, our generation of human beings are still asking for those same things. So the connection is pretty deep for me as it feels, you know, 60 years ago, but it feels like these songs are that coming out today? Like this is music of today.

Aaron Gobler:

And the Roots reggae ... that didn't start in the United States that started elsewhere?

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, it came from Jamaica. Yes. Yeah. They came from Jamaica. And it involved a lot of Jamaicans went to Europe went to the UK. And so when you look at reggae, and you talk about there's the Roots reggae, there's Dancehall, there's Lover's Rock, there's all different styles ... West Coast, which is what we're going to get into next with Rebelution.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. There's a type called Reggaeton. Is that a me saying that correctly?

Jacob Hanson:

Yes. That's, another type more of a newer version of reggae. Yes.

Aaron Gobler:

And when I'm looking up a song on Wikipedia, sometimes a new song that I've heard and it describes it as Reggaeton. And so that's a spin-off per se? A variety of ...

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, so reggae, Reggaeton, and Dancehall is another one. Soca Music is now kind of how reggae has evolved into that's the music that you'll find in the club. That's the music you you dance to when you go to like the parades, the carnivals, that's the music they're gonna play ... not so much Dancehall ... And so that's the evolution of today. But in general, with reggae, it's multicultural, you have African reggae, you now have, you know, the UK reggae, you have Hawaiian reggae, it's all over. And it's all slightly different. But it's all the same messaging.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm hmm. That's a good segue into the next song, which you started talking about by Rebelution, which, as you said, is more of a West Coast reggae; and I really enjoy the song and I'm eager for us to listen to it together. So that's listen to "Good Vibes" by Rebelution; and we'll talk about it on the other side. Jacob, as I said earlier, I really liked the song. It sounds so uplifting and it's messages very positive. And what inspired you to include the song on your list?

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, I think those two things are exactly you hit on the head. Plus, by now ... I should have said earlier ... if you're not snapping your fingers or bobbing your head or just like moving to a ... if it doesn't move, you gotta let it move you. So I'm hoping that you were there, you know, bobbing your head or something? Because I, I had to put myself on mute. I was singing I'm dancing in the chair a little bit. But yeah, I think this song kind of encompasses the music side of ... you can dance to it, you can groove to a you can, you know, you really feel the music part. But then also when you listen to the lyrics, yeah. Wow. Every like, you can stop and read every line of the lyrics and be like, yes, yes. Like this applies to us today. Yeah, yeah. And so I think just, again, these kind of like, as my Bible kind of songs, you go back to him just to reinforce things and remember, and, you know, don't forget that this is important.

Aaron Gobler:

I mentioned, like, you know, has this uplifting message. But it's interesting, it's countered with this whole idea of like, hatred and tension and racism and all these things that are, are ... and like you're saying, are still around, and you know, with social media, just almost like ratcheted up. And, but then the flip of that is like, they're bringing only good vibes, right? So it's not like just be happy and you know, don't worry, be happy, but more like, there is a lot of this darkness and bad stuff. But we should be concentrating on good vibes.

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, I think concentrated A lot of good vibers, but also, yeah, they're, they're pointing out all these, these things that are either happening to people, or, you know, the racism that's going on. And we need to change that. We need to make a change, and we need to live our lives differently. The racism is killing us, it is literally killing some of us.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes.

Jacob Hanson:

And that, you know, to point that out in a song that this is like one of their most popular songs, and it gets played at every concert, and it gets listened to so many times. So just that, like sneaking in those things for people to hear ... while dancing around and having fun, it's just to me, it's a it's a clever move. And when I was in college, we listened to a song ... I was taking an African American Studies class. And we had to listen to a song and we didn't, it wasn't in English. And you could ... you so we're there vibing to the beat, dancing and all that stuff. And it was a really great song. And the professor said, Okay, what do you think the song was about? And obviously, it's uplifting, it's dancing, like you want to. So it must be something good, they're celebrating. But the message of the song was actually about domestic abuse, and how domestic abuse is wrong, and how we shouldn't be this ... shouldn't be part of our world. So be aware that domestic abuse is happening. Be aware that, you know, people may be suffering with this, this issue, but it's it's presented in such an uplifting and, and dancing way. It's just such a cool way to combine messaging with music.

Aaron Gobler:

So somebody who would understand the lyrics or, you know, he said that was in another language, right? Yeah, somebody who would under actually understand the lyrics would perhaps because of the uplifting sound of the song be actually absorbing the message to?

Jacob Hanson:

Definitely, yeah, while dancing and having fun and being at a party or whatever it is. Yeah. So I see that I see parts of that in this song. Rebelution is great. They're West Coast. They're considered a West Coast reggae band, and I have another name, but I think it's West Coast. And they're a group of kids that started out they were all going to school at Santa Barbara. And they were started playing Isla Vista, you know, the little party part of Santa Barbara. And they were just playing around there. And all sudden, people were like, Hey, this is actually kind of ... you guys are good. And they've just blown up from now they're traveling around the world. And this is their thing. You can start to hear differences in the style of reggae. So it's a little bit different than Ziggy's. And you'll see ... you'll hear a huge contrast with the roots reggae coming up next. But this one is a little, it's a little fresher. It's a little newer. And just the instruments that are involved are, it's more it's not relevant to today, but it's closer aligned with today's music, as opposed to like the older style of music.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it seems to have a fresher sound, and more synonymous with the more popular music sound that we have today. And so I think it's more accessible to people listen to the music today as almost an entry into into reggae music. And then they might go back and then listen to the you know, the old original Roots reggae. And it is quite a contrast with the third song. So we'll use that as a segue into the third song which is "Peace, Love and Harmony" by Culture. And this is from 1988 and you identify this as one of the more original reggae sounds. So let's get that a listen. Jacob, I know that reggae has a history back to the 60s and earlier but when I hear this song, this is what I think of the classic reggae sound like the textbook reggae sound. Why did you choose to include this song?

Jacob Hanson:

Yes, this is getting back to the sub genre of roots reggae. Oh, that's what you're hearing. That's why it feels like this is what reggae is. That's what I think too. I feel like this is this is reggae. I'm juiced right now hearing this. One of the things that I like about Culture and I chose Culture and I chose this song was right away. You get the beat. You can hear the melody in the background the music going on, like if it was just the beat, I could just be jam into that Culture, in the style of music that they play, every song is similar to that every song makes you want to dance every song makes you want to bob your head, whatever your way of expressing through your body, what you're feeling. Culture gives that. One of the things with Roots reggae is that there's some things you can understand what they're saying. And there's some things that I don't understand what they're saying. And part of that is because they're actually speaking a different language. Jamaicans have their own language, which is a blend of English and other things. They call it Patois. And so some of the times they might be speaking Patois, which kind of sounds like English, you're like, oh, maybe I, maybe I know, maybe I don't know what they're saying. And it's probably because of that. So there's good parts of the song that I don't know what they're saying. And I tried to find on, I tried to look up their lyrics. And there's not even lyrics that match the song at all. So, you know, what I can really take from this song is, I mean, if I don't know how many times they repeated it, but peace, love and harmony. And I think that's what everyone wants, right. And I think that you can just hear through the emotions in their voices, that that's what they want. So this song just really gets me going and gets me excited for for that just having trying to reach that goal of having peace, love and harmony amongst yourself, amongst your friends amongst your city, your country, the world, all of it is it's almost every song that they have is just it's either uplifting. It's motivational, it reminds you of living a good life. And so yeah, I was sad that I couldn't fit everybody into my my three. But I think having this Roots reggae as the last one kind of introducing Roots reggae, and that's the heart of reggae for me. And exploring that just excites me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it's been a lot of fun listening to these songs, you know, experiencing these songs for the first time this week, and then having the discussion about them with you. Is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like something that may have occurred to you while we were playing them or something I didn't ask you about?

Jacob Hanson:

Exploring reggae, to me, it helps you. I feel now after listening, even though I've listened to these songs multiple times, I listened to them the last few days, but hearing every time I hear them, it just takes any negative feelings away. Anything that's brought you down, it can bring you up, the messages that you get can change the outcome of your entire day. And so I think that it has a wide range of uses, it helps relieve your stress, it makes you happy. It gives you advice over life issues. It's something you can dance or cry to. I think that, you know, hearing that and exploring reggae is just an amazing thing. So I like to share that with everyone. That's why I played it so much in the gym. And so I would tell you about the different artists as they were going on and everything I knew about them, because I think the messages are just really, they're great, and they're important.

Aaron Gobler:

I really appreciate you putting this list together. It's clear that you spent a lot of time trying to decide which were the three you were going to use and I think they each captured a different kind of experience of reggae music, and I really enjoyed speaking with you about them today. I want to thank you again for for for being on the show.

Female Voice:

Yeah, thank you and I got to give my shout-out real quick because I love these guys and they'd be upset if they heard this that I didn't include them. I listened to them so much and I love them. So a couple guys, if if you find yourself on Spotify and want to dive a little bit deeper into the roots of reggae, Gregory Isaacs, he's the king of Lover's Rock, which is another sub genre. Bob Marley, we know king of reggae. Yellowman was the king of Dancehall, which is another subcategory. That Dancehall is ... you,, you're out there, dancing and having fun right? Steel Pulse and UB40 ... I'm sure everyone heard of UB40. Those are both great reggae bands also.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you again Jacob for your time today ... and to my listeners if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot Show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes Only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show

Aaron Gobler:

That was great.

Jacob Hanson:

Yeah, I enjoyed it; that's so fun. I'm like on a high right now. That was cool. Yeah.

Episode 42 : My Three Songs with Matt Wolff

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 42. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my guest is Matt Wolff. Matt is the founder and CEO of Ticket Time Machine, a souvenir ticket company based near Boca Raton, Florida. We were introduced by Erik Covitz, a fraternity brother of mine. How are you today, Matt? And can you tell me more about what you do?

Matt Wolff:

I'm doing great Aaron, excited to be here. Ticket Time Machine is a commemorative product company, we're keeping the printed memory alive. And if you went to a concert, now you get a digital ticket, we can go ahead and print you up and authen tic thermal ticket for the show that says where you land. And we're working with all kinds of festivals and venues and artists to get a real nice keepsake for all of the concerts that you are going to in the future and also for the ones that you've been to in the past.

Aaron Gobler:

Is this something like I have a box full of like half tickets from all these concerts that I went to. And so it's kind of cool to go through them as keepsakes. And it's not the same to have like an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper with a QR code on it. Like I think that's what you're where you're going with this right, you can actually have something that's much more meaningful as a memento.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, I have a box full of ticket stubs. I also have a box full of print at home 8.5 by 11. And it's just, you know, I think people are really going to love the tickets that we have to offer moving forward with everything going digital.

Aaron Gobler:

Is this something someone can put in a small frame or something like, you know, collect them on their wall? Yeah, I used to collect movie tickets, you know, that had the movie name on them. So I could say, oh, yeah, I want to see that movie. But it's really kind of impersonalized now. And, and I think that's really cool what you're doing.

Matt Wolff:

And we're working on movie tickets, too. Because if you go back and he tickets, half of them are cut off, the title isn't full...

Aaron Gobler:

Right, right. It is kind of a little bit silly. When you look back and say, Well, why is it so important to have that ticket? Because it's experience, you know, but it's almost like a little, like a little journal of all the things that you've seen and experienced. So it does have it.

Matt Wolff:

It's also very similar why you're doing this show is three songs, these songs all have meaning to people. For me that ticket is I look at a ticket. And if it's a concert, it immediately has meaning maybe it's a song that was there maybe it's who I was with, but it's just all about memories. And so that's ... your show is exactly that we're looking back on memories and something elicits something from us when we hear it or look at it.

Aaron Gobler:

Uh huh. And I guess you could go through your tickets and say, oh, yeah, I remember that show. Or, oh, I can picture myself at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia, you know, seeing James Taylor or Bonnie Raitt or something and the ticket elicits that kind of experience. Yeah, yeah. That's really great. And Matt, I'm really happy you decided to be on the show. And I'm really, I'm really psyched to talk with you about music. What inspired you to be on the show?

Matt Wolff:

Well, Erik told me about the show. He knows how much I love music. And man, I just love to talk about music. And these songs that we're going to talk about today have some pretty deep meaning for me and, and so I'm always happy to talk about the things I love music, movies, sports, entertainment, travel, food, mental health, all kinds of things that I'm real passionate about. It's just ... I'm happy to have a conversation, whether it's in a in a venue like this, or it's just talking to, you know, the person on the street.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm hmm. And before we get started, can you tell me like how music fits into your life in general? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or background of the day?

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, so music is been a huge part of my life probably since my senior year in high school, and I started to really like music. And that's late, kind of a late bloomer. Back in the days when Led Zeppelin and AC/DC and Journey ... these were all huge bands, but I didn't really follow them and so a lot of my knowledge doesn't go earlier than say like the 90s as far as deep knowledge on music, and then I got to college and I was out everywhere, everything I did socially had music to it. Now, I go to man, every festival that's around here concerts -- 50 a year probably. Yeah, I love music. It's it's one of my favorite things to do. I listen to music when I shower, I listened to it sometimes when I work, if I can concentrate enough, when I'm in my car, when I'm exercising, that's kind of what gets me through exercise. So, music is important to me on a daily basis.

Aaron Gobler.:

Do you find there are times where you, you can seriously notice the absence of music?

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, it's and part of the big thing is maybe when I'm exercising, because I don't drive a lot anymore. So the exercise is the time when I'm really listening to music the most. So I think that's probably when I noticed it. I also had a conversation with someone about if I had to give up music or sports, what would I give up? I think it would be sports, crazy enough. I would, because I don't know that I could live without music. But sports, you know, it would be devastating for me, but I feel like I'd be okay.

Aaron Gobler:

And the reason I asked you that question a moment ago was that I'll sit here ready to do some work at my desk. And I need the music as kind of a meditative thing flowing in the background or stimulating my brain or, or something. And I definitely noticed the lack of it. Yeah, I don't think I could, I could exist too too long without some kind of music. So let's jump into the songs that you chose. "Listen to Your Heart" by DHT from 2005, "All For You" by Sister Hazel from 1994, and "Tubthumping" by Chumbawamba from 1997. Now I know all these songs, but the first song is rendition I hadn't heard before. I'm eager for both of us to listen to these songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. The first song in your list is "Listen to Your Heart" by DHT.

Aaron Gobler.:

Matt, I'm quite familiar with the original version of the song by Roxette from 1988. This version by the Belgian band DHT is really, really beautiful. And I discovered there are some great dance remixes of this too. But what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Matt Wolff:

Back in 2005, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I'm from New Jersey, but I live in South Florida and have since I graduated college, which we'll talk about on the next song. The hospital was about maybe 25-30 minutes away. And this was basically ... this song was on the radio every five minutes at that time. And so every time I'm driving back and forth, I'm hearing this song. And it just made me think about my dad. And for a long time, it really brought me to tears in a joyful way of being able to remember him. But I just think it's such a great, it's such a great song. It's ... I'm not even usually a lyric person so much. But for this one, for some reason, the combination of driving all to see my dad and the lyrics of it. It's a sad song. But it's also you know, I think it's very, I guess, retrospective and it brings joy to me to hear it to just one of the many things that makes me think of my father in a pretty good way, smile. Now I hear that song and it just, it's, it's a joy for me.

Aaron Gobler:

So when you hear it now, or even like this version, or the original version, are you immediately kind of transported back to your driving to visit your dad.

Matt Wolff:

time ago or 17 years. And you mentioned the other like the dance remixes, there was a lot of like, funky funky dance remixes to this song. And I don't really like a lot of them, some of them I do because I do like the upbeat to it. But the core of it with the lyrics is really what you know what gets me.

Aaron Gobler:

And if you could, if you could get back into your mind while you were driving was there a positive anticipation about seeing your dad or were there more like stronger feelings about what situation he was in?

Matt Wolff:

So I was living in Florida and we're from New Jersey, that's where he was and I got a call that said get on a plane. You know, that was it? Yeah. By the time I got to him, he was ... it was basically over but he was around for probably less than a week in the hospital. But at that point like right when I got to him he basically wasn't talking. Yeah, it was, you know, it was ... I'm glad I got up there when I could. And but yeah, there's so many things that reminded my dad, it could be a commercial, it could be this song, it could be watching sports. So I look at all of them as a positive.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. So so at this point, it's really almost, in your mind then makes you celebrate your dad as opposed to the whatever stress and anxiety you might have actually been really feeling while you're driving to visit him.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, I mean, we knew what was happening. So it wasn't, you know, you already knew what the result was going to be. And but it was even early on, I think it was one of those songs that I wanted to hear because I wanted to get that emotion and felt good, even though I might have been crying, you know, like tears and getting emotional about it. It was one of those good, you know, good emotions even though it's, you know, for negative thing. So it's that song, willl always have a special place for me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Well, thank you for that story that's really touching. And it does underscore how how a song can immediately cause our brain to switch to a different time and place and bring back those emotions. It's a very, very powerful trigger. Matt, your next song is all for you by Sister Hazel. Let's take a listen to that and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Matt, I love this song. It was quite popular in 1994. And I found out that it peaked at number 11 on the Billboard Top 100 chart at that time, what inspired you to include this on your list?

Matt Wolff:

Yes. So the background on Sister Hazel is that I have a twin brother. And out of high school. He went to the University of Florida and I went to community college for a year. A year later, I joined him at the University of Florida. Now the first time I ever heard this song was when I was visiting my brother and it wasn't Sister Hazel. It was Ken and Andrew, Ken Block and Drew Copeland who were the two original members and the singers at a bar. I'm trying to remember the bar they were playing all over. They formed Sister Hazel, I went to Gainesville and '95. I'm pretty sure I was at the taping of the music video for this at the Florida Theater. Essentially, I've seen Sister Hazel the most out of any band ever. Dave Matthews, for me is probably twice. There's a caveat to that I go on The Rock Boat, which is a music cruise hosted by Sister Hazel. So you know for five, six years, I was seeing them three times a year plus whenever else they would go and that song -- I get chills when the audience sings. They let the audience sing the chorus and I just thought it was every time that happens. It's like it's that moment and for me they're just they're great guys. The Rock Boat's a great experience. It's run by Sixthman. If you've never been on a music cruise, Sixthman does some pretty good ones. I'm gonna be on the Beach Boys cruise by Sixthman a week from today. So, Sister Hazel has just been that song is always just I love hearing it. And they put out a lot of other good music. But I always just every time that song comes on, chills, I get chills for it. And it's, you know, back in the college days, that was probably the first band I really loved.

Aaron Gobler:

Or the or the chills due to the song itself or like you're saying it was really kind of electrifying when the whole audience is singing the chorus. Do the chills come from those ... from your body like re experiencing that the being in the audience and everybody's singing?

Matt Wolff:

I think it's yeah, I mean, especially when it's live and they're singing.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, sure.

Matt Wolff:

Because that's ... unless you hear a live version and that's interesting because that's such a great feeling for me when the when the crowd sings something. "Learning to Fly" by Tom Petty was on my list that I'd given you. And there's a live version of that song where the crowd is saying with Tom back and forth for like two minutes. It's probably the best live version of a song I've ever heard. But every time we're in ... whether I'm on the cruise or whether I'm in at a live Sister Hazel show and that song comes on ... I basically just am excited for that part where they stopped and the whole crowd is just singing it because not every band has songs where the crowd is just going to sing like that and sing it loud. I go to a lot of shows and you know the bands will put the microphone on the crowd and you'll get there'll be people singing but you have the collective crowd all know exactly what the words are in singing loud. It's to me it's as good as it gets at a live performance.

Aaron Gobler:

Wow. So it really is like literally a communal experience. And, and I think you know, most of us have concerns about how we sound when we're singing. And we may be reluctant to sing in other's presence. But when everybody's singing at the same time, there's some kind of weird thing that happens and everybody sounds like ... they all kind of harmonize when you get enough people together singing. And so there's something rewarding about just like letting yourself go and sing and not care what anybody else thinks you sound like.

Matt Wolff:

It's yeah, it's crazy how many times I've seen them live. And you know how long I've seen them, you know, back when they were just two guys singing at fraternity parties and local dive bars.

Aaron Gobler:

And it must be really rewarding to have experienced their success.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, and a lot of it is also because they're so tied to Gainesville, Florida and the Gators so it's just, it's a real sense of pride.

Aaron Gobler:

That's great. Thank you for that story. It's cool when someone has some kind of real visceral and real connection with a band like that. So I appreciate that story. The last song on your list is "Tupthumping" by Chumbawamba.

Aaron Gobler.:

Matt, I feel like most people either love or hate the song like there may not be a middle ground. I mean, it was super popular reached like number six on the Billboard Top 100 chart even higher like number two on the UK chart. I mean, it's certainly an odd song. But I also feel like it's hard to like feel anything but upbeat while you're listening to it. But anyhow, why did you choose to include the song?

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, it's just it's for me it's such a fun song. It's probably my favorite one hit wonder. And so that's probably why I chose it. Every time I hear it I turn the volume up. And it just it's so I mean, it's inspiring. It's it's simple, right? I get knocked out, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down. And, man if that's not a lesson for everyone, I don't know what is in a song. There's so many inspirational lyrics and songs. I look at songs like "Man in the Mirror", which really inspires me and you know, that's a whole song dedicated ... this it's one line, two lines, keeps repeating it and it's great. I love it. The one hit wonder again, I think that that's really the angle that I took with it. I love the name too, right? I mean, "Tubthumping" and Chumbawamba. Actually funny enough, I was looking at doing like a festival, a one hit wonder festival, which people come on and sing their song. And I reached out to someone who was a part of Chumbawamba and they're like, "We're no longer together. Thanks. Good luck." And I'm like, yeah, I understand that we're trying to get you together to sing one song one time. I'm still hopeful I can get a one hit wonder festival going. But to me that's that my favorite one hit wonder song. And one hit wonders are interesting. Because most of the songs that people say are one hit wonders. They're they're really not. They just don't realize it. So for me, that's a true one hit wonder. And it's it's my favorite one.

Aaron Gobler:

Through my research I learned they did have several albums. Yeah, and I have had several discussions on previous episodes of the show with guests about what had wonders and like some of the some of those cases that people have to have a whole a canon of really good stuff. But this one particular song seemed to resonate it and hit it big, and others just never matched. This like it was like this one a million shot they just this song was like incredible and the rest of their stuff never, you know, reached that level.

Matt Wolff:

It's for a long time. I mean, it's it's 25 years or so. And just keeps it's always gonna be a big thing. You who Matthew Kelly is? He does a one hit wonder podcast, which is, it's a pretty good podcast.

Aaron Gobler:

No, no, I'm not familiar with that.

Matt Wolff:

... One hit wonder, what makes a one hit wonder, and stuff like that. But that's always gonna be the biggest argument is something a one hit wonder? There are people who thought Sister Hazel's "All for You" is a one hit wonder and it might be close ...

Aaron Gobler:

It may be like a breakthrough song for them. But it doesn't necessarily mean they are a one hit wonder.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, no, absolutely.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah. People would be hard pressed especially like in the US maybe in the UK, it'd be different to name other songs by Chumbawamba. But I definitely ... there are definitely one hit wonders which kind of grow old after a time. And other ones that I guess like this, which, like you said, do regardless of when it was created. It is definitely different than a lot of stuff we're used to listening to, and it's infectious. And so that's why when you put this on your list, I'm like yeah, I really want to include this on this show. I certainly had a lot of fun, it's fun to listen to. And just from a trivia standpoint I did do some research and the expression "tub thumping" is like a British expression about someone politicking or just talking loudly about their policy and that when the woman is singing, "pissing the night away", it's a British reference to drinking all night not actually urinating.

Matt Wolff:

Right. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

So Matt, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections like things you might have thought about while we were listening to them or something else you wanted to add?

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, I think I want to talk I just want to briefly mention some of the other songs that were on my mind. There's so many songs that so many meanings like I sent to you. Also, I talked about the "Learning to Fly". I encourage everyone to take a listen to the "Learning to Fly" Tom Petty live version. It's insane. And then I do quite a bit of karaoke, "America" by Neil Diamond is like my go to song. And then so I was thinking about doing that, talked about putting that on here. Tom Petty "Mary Jane's Last Dance." I actually sang that on stage with bands. No karaoke. So if you ever heard that someone asked you, hey, if you had to sing a song, for like, your life, or for like, a million dollars, and you can't mess anything up, that's the one song I think I can probably do without any help without messing it up, which is interesting. And then the other song I was going to do was "We Built This City," which I really like. And it's ... the two things about that is one, it's notoriously on the list for worst songs ever, which I don't even know how. Along with other songs like "Wang Chung" have, you know, which I love. I mean, there's probably six out of the Top 10 of these worst song lists that I love every time it comes on. I'm, I'm pretty jacked up about but "We Built This City" I went and saw Starship at this small festival many years ago, and I went to go see, "We Built This City." And I kept telling my friend, "No, it's going to come it's going to come." But apparently the difference between Starship and Jefferson Starship and Jefferson Airplane, certain versions own the rights. And they're actually not allowed to sing that. I encountered that with Quiet Riot, they are unable to sing "Mr. Roboto." And was very disappointed if you ever go to a show wanting to hear one song and then not getting to hear it because there's like, there's fighting between the licenses of it. It's terrible. So those are the the songs that I had in my mind. But the three that we talked about today are a great, great meaning for me.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm hmm.

Matt Wolff:

Is anyone going to Meat Loaf? I won't do that. I would do anything.

Aaron Gobler:

Has anybody chosen that song? You mean? No. No Meat Loaf songs yet?

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, that was on my list too. I don't know why. It always brings up good conversation. We could be dying, you'd be like, "is anyone ever gonna figure out what that was?" And the answer is no. Which is one of the great mysteries. Yeah, that's up to your own interpretation, right?

Aaron Gobler:

Uh huh. I've also felt like, if there's a movie or any kind of piece of art, and you have people really liking it, and some people really don't like it, then some, but then it's been done really well, in some way. Because things that like everybody just can agree on sometimes don't challenge us enough or aren't pushing enough of our buttons. And I think that things that actually do make us feel strongly are actually better done. I think they hit a certain chord that I think ultimately makes them more more interesting to talk about and experience.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, music is so subjective. I mean, Top hits now I'm like, how is is that people like this? And then songs I love that people are like, "What in the world are you listening?" And so you know, there's, there's so many good songs and talented people that that you've never even heard of. I'll just throw this in, like this was one of the people I met on the rock boat, which is the Sixthman, Sister Hazel's guy, JD Eicher's got a beautiful voice. And they like struggle, a great following in a small sense of a community. But people like him who struggled to get to the mainstream, and a lot of its money and who you know, it's not even necessarily who's the most talented anymore. So music is a it's become such a business. I think back in the day, you know, when you and I first started listening to music, it was a lot less about the business, and more about the music. And so that's why I think you'll get 80s and 90s for me are just some of the best music out there. And I'll listen to that. Probably as much as I listen, anything, any of the new stuff that's out today.

Aaron Gobler:

I experienced with my, my young adult daughters as they were growing up and listening to stuff and I'm like, I just can't get into that stuff. And I'm thinking, you know, it's generational to. That's what our parents thought about our music and so on and so on. But it is rewarding when they start playing certain classic songs. Songs that I didn't even know how they were exposed to. And they like really love certain Beatles songs or a certain Stone's songs or other kinds. So there are certain breakthrough songs from what I was listening to that they really enjoy. Even though even if I can't necessarily appreciate some of the stuff they're listening to, that's more contemporary.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, my mom is was a big doo wop in the 50s and 60s, and I kind of like good stuff with him good fast beat. So I'll listen to some of that, and can really appreciate it. You know, she likes some of the some of the newer stuff. I become way big into country. That's a whole nother story. Country music for me is a huge part of my life now. And next month, I have Tortuga Music Festival, which was the first time I ever saw ... really listened to country music. And it was because Sister Hazel was actually on that lineup, and they're on, they're playing Tortuga again this year. And Sister Hazel was on the lineup with Michael Franti, two days on the beach for $99. I'm like, I'll go see anybody for $99 for two days of music on the beach. And that was it. I was hooked. I mean, I've been to every day of eight years of Tortuga and country music I go to probably 20 shows a year and dominates my playlist now. And it's all because of Sister Hazel who actually put out a country-ish album themselves. So it's it's just interesting how, you know, time, timing is everything. And the way music kind of brings everything full circle for me. It's, it's just, it's such a huge part of my life. And I'm so blessed to be able to be in a place that gets great acts and have the ability to listen to a lot of great songs and have access to all these songs. Now. It's, it's, I wouldn't know what to do without it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I'm with you completely. I want to thank you again, Matt, for taking the time today and put to put your list together and talk with me. And it was a lot of fun. And I really got to learn more about you as a music lover.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, it was I always love talking music. I think this is a great format to talk about songs that are meaningful to you. And if you ever changed the format, and there's another type of music show that you want to talk more about. I'm always down.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. I'll keep that in mind because I am thinking of other kinds of formats that will involve the interview but not be exactly this, but something similar. So I'll keep you in mind.

Matt Wolff:

Yeah, you're not seeing the end result here. I'm sharing it with everyone I know.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. That's awesome. And thank you again, Matt. And, to my listeners, if you want to be part of this show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 40 : My Three Songs with Lisa Mazur

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 40. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Lisa Mazur. Lisa is a professional graphic designer and a great business colleague of mine from the San Francisco Bay Area. . And I have to mention that Lisa designed, the amazing Aaron's Radio Show logo, and I continue to get compliments on it. How are you today, Lisa?

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, I'm awesome today, Aaron. Thanks for having me on the show.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm really glad that you decided to be on the show. And I'm really psyched to talk to you about music. So what inspired you to be on the show?

Lisa Mazur:

Well, I love talking about music. And you know, sometimes to the point where maybe some of my family members or friends don't enjoy talking about it as much as I do. So when you started your radio show, I think it was last year or the year before and asked me to design the graphics. I was like, "Oh my god, that's awesome. What an awesome idea." And I think you you mentioned that you were a radio ... you had a radio show in college?`

Aaron Gobler:

I had a radio station in my parents basement.

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, wow. That's even cooler.

Aaron Gobler:

But I do wonder why I never actually participated in the radio station at my college, I went to Hofstra University. And they had a radio station. And it had an FM frequency and such, but I didn't do that, no.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah. But that's cool that you did it in the basement of your parents. That's, that's really fun.

Aaron Gobler.:

What was I, like 10 or something like that. So I was maybe destined?

Lisa Mazur:

Yes, exactly.

Aaron Gobler:

But I did start this effort back in like, just actually right around now last year, because it was about March when I started recording episodes, but they were not these interview formats.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, it's evolved.

Aaron Gobler:

But I firmly believe that having a good footing with your branding at the start of your business is really, really important. And it's a very worthwhile investment. And I really like the work you did.

Lisa Mazur:

Well, it was fun creating that with you. And I agree. I mean, branding is, it's a huge thing to kind of keep your visual voice consistent. And so people recognize it. And it's like, easy, easy to reference and find. And that's what I do for clients. I work with a lot of businesses in the US, local and national, on creating their own brand identities and design. And that could include logos and websites and digital marketing, and in print marketing, and pretty much anything that's needed. So it's really fun. I love it. I've been doing it for like 28 years, I think at this point. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I think because the human being is not the first thing that people encounter with these with businesses often it's the branding, and the writing, and in messaging and all that. So when someone sees a logo or styling or such, they can read into it, just the seriousness or the you know, investment. And that can speak a lot as compared to something that looks like you went to Staples. No offense, staples, you know so ...

Lisa Mazur:

... and use their design services.

Aaron Gobler:

Exactly. Yeah.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, I mean, I think there's so many ways that you can get design work done these days. I mean, obviously, a lot of people can do it themselves. You know, there's lots of apps and services online that you can create logos. But what I do is really create unique visual brand identities for businesses, and really give people an easy way to represent their business visually, across all platforms that they market through. So that's the goal and it's all about ease and ease. kind of clarity for the clients that they have to. And yeah, there's many businesses that come to me that don't have a really strong brand identity. And so my goal always with clients is to work with them to come up with something that feels genuine for them. That's eye catching, and again, can easily be used across all platforms.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, it's quite a skill and you've honed it in 28 years and made a successful business. So Lisa, let's switch over to music.

Lisa Mazur:

Okay.

Aaron Gobler:

We're both here to listen to your songs and talk about them. Before we get started, can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like, do you seek it out? Is it like in the background or the foreground each day?

Lisa Mazur:

Music is always, always around. I mean, I think now especially I have two kids, one's almost 14, one's 11. So we're always playing music. And the nice thing is, they like kind of a really good range of music, you know, they like current stuff, as well as things from, you know, ranging from The Beatles all the way through the decades. So we have a lot of things that we we enjoy listening to together. It's so fun. I mean, having, you know, like a Spotify account, or just through the Alexa, you can feel like I want to listen to this song right now. And that's really fun. Because sometimes I'll reference songs to my kids, and I'll be like, Have you ever heard that? And I'm sort of just automatically, like, just put it on? That's awesome. Like that. How different is that, then, you know, when I grew up, it was, uh, albums and tapes, then it went to CDs. So there's kind of been a good evolution of how you can listen and the ease of it, right? And how you now you can just acquire these amazing playlists, just, it's just so easy. Now, instead of making a mixtape or something, right? Or a CD of your favorite songs that you give to your boyfriend or something.

Aaron Gobler:

It's really remarkable when you when you do take a step back and think that information in general is at our fingertips. You know, the whole Library of Congress will fit in into our iPhone, as they say, or something, right? Get it through our iPhone. And so the the magic of being able to say, you know, "Alexa, play this song," or at the dinner table, when you're talking about something, quick, take out your phone and just like go into Apple Music and just find and just play that song. It's really kind of mind blowing when you think about what it was like before. The flip side is that it's taken away some of the magic of going to your album collection and taking out the album and taking out the you know, the record, putting it on the record player, and all those steps. And there was something about that, that was not a chore. Like we don't ... none of us thought of that as a chore. So by just telling, you know, our Alexa to play a song for us, it's very convenient. But we never think oh, wow, that's so much easier than this or wow, I really hated it when I had to go do that. I think there's some trade offs there.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, well, there was nothing better than going and buying a record, right? The vinyl, I mean, and that our album cover art and like kind of, you know, like cracking that open. And sometimes, you know, they'd be like, the double albums and you'd open it up like a book. And it would be these amazing pictures and or, like sometimes they'd have the lyrics on the inside. And I just remember, I mean, I used to spend so much time, like, just looking at these album covers and the art. I think that was really the first my first real interest in graphic design too, was like really studying a lot of the album covers that I would get. I mean, I just remember sitting on you know, it's like in my basement on the floor, and like, putting a record on and just sitting there for like, hours studying. It was awesome.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, so again, it's like, there's a there was a certain magic to that, but I think I still take the trade off of like, you know, just being able to just get a song to play because you'll have something stuck in your head and then you'll just say, you know, I gotta say to my phone and you know, Siri, play me this song or something.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, it's easy to research songs like learn that song. It was like, part of this, but I don't remember and it's, you know, it's such an easy way to find it. I did that a couple weeks ago with some with some obscure song by Jane Waveland. And she did a duet with this guy, it was so cool. These guy could just feel like oh my god, just put that on and then do some research on that through my phone.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I'm still traumatized by when I was a little kid and I went into record store. And there was a John Denver song that I liked. And I think it's called "Annie's Song," but I didn't know what it was called. Because of course, I don't think he says "Annie" anywhere in the song. So of course I didn't know. But I did ask one of the clerks. You know, I tried singing. And then he asked another person to come over. And I thought I was being like, "Oh, how cute is this kid?" I don't know how old I was. But I was old enough to feel like, this is not ... this was not that nice? Yeah, I could read into what was going on. So now with I mean, you know, with the internet for the last, you know, 20 something years, you've been able to pull a lyric up and generally find out what song it is. So yeah, it is pretty ... I think that's, that's really a pretty awesome and I think altogether, that's, it's, uh, you know, this information age, and I think that's all a better thing. And you can still, you know, you can still get vinyl and you can still play your old vinyl on a record player, there's still record players out there.

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know, my, my daughter is interested in getting vinyl now. Which I always I think it's so funny. She just bought her friend of vinyl for her birthday. And you know, yeah. So it is special, because it's almost like having like a piece of art. Right? Instead of it because digital, I mean, it's there. Yeah it's easy, of course, as we said but having like a physical item that's like, a memento, it's meaningful.

Aaron Gobler:

I think also like a CD. I mean, there's some newfangled ... I mean, CDs are pretty old now. But there's, there's some devices where you can see the CD spinning, right, but it's spinning so fast, and it's just a blur. But most CD players, you can't even see the disc. But most record players that I've seen, you actually see the record turning. So it's a much more tactile, interactive kind of thing, where you're not just pushing a button, you're generally going to lift the needle, put it down, and when it gets to the end, you know, it's, you know, whatever. So, so there's definitely something even more than a tape. You know, the tape again, is like, the tape is inside, you know, the actual magnetic materials all inside, you can't see it so...

Lisa Mazur:

And plus I think it degrades pretty quickly. Right. And also, it's, it feels a little more fragile. I mean, how many tapes have we all have that just stopped working? Or like got jammed or something, right? Yeah, I mean, you could get scratches on your albums, but I don't know the tapes were just, it didn't feel precious at all.

Aaron Gobler:

So let's just jump right into your songs. The songs you chose were "This Must Be The Place" by the Talking Heads from 1982, "How Soon is Now" by the Smiths from 1984, and "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve from 1997. I know all these songs, this is a great selection. And I generally say that after I say I know all these songs, but I don't know. And I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So the first song on your list is, "This Must Be The Place" by the Talking Heads.

Aaron Gobler.:

Lisa, this song is the last track on the "Speaking in Tongues" album. And I feel like the hits from that album catapulted the Talking Heads into a more pop category, while they still retain their very creative and quirky style. Now what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, well, still to this day, every time I hear it I'm just it's just such a beautiful, dreamy song. And I actually saw them perform, the Talking Heads perform this in 1983 it was like the first concert I ever went to. And I had no idea that I was seeing this, you know, sort of like it felt like it's like history in the making, right? I was like, I was 14 like first concert. But it was such a beautiful concert because it really it was almost like a performance from the beginning to the end. The way that the concert started was it just was one, I think it was like a boombox that was starting to play a song and it was all dark and it just like David Byrne came out and sang as a single person on the stage. And then the band members came in little by little. I mean that concert was amazing. And that was one of the songs that they played. It was like halfway through. And I think at that point, I can't remember if I had the album, the full album or not, but I know I went out and bought it. And listened to this song and the whole album over and over again, throughout my teenage years, and I know the song has been in a couple movies here and there, and it's just, it just endures. You know, it's like, yeah, I don't know. It's just so special and just beautiful. And David Byrne is such an amazing talent. And I have it, it was so funny ... when I was living in New York, I lived in New York for a long time before moving out to Berkeley in California. And I was, it was probably in like the early, maybe 2002 or so. And I was at an art opening that my friend worked at this gallery. And literally, David Byrne was there. And he was just standing there standing at the bar, like, and no one was talking to him. And I looked at him. I was like, oh my god, I'm gonna go talk to David Byrne. And all of a sudden, I got like, you know, I was starstruck and I was like, "Oh, my God, that's David Byrne." And then unfortunately, I didn't have the guts. I stared at him for a long time. And I was like, so close. It's so funny. But yeah, he's an amazing performer. And he's still performing to this day, constantly adapting and experimenting. He's super cool. I think the initial song that came out on this album was "Once in a Lifetime", and that was in the early MTV years. And I think their video for that was just like, so weird. And so cool. And I think that's what kind of hooked me and my friends. Oh, my God. And when I was in high school, we just loved the Talking Heads so much my, you know, in high school, they do like, talent shows and things that we had something called Battle of the Bands where people would like, you know, groups of friends would get together and be like, I'm gonna be Van Halen, or like Genesis or something, you know, and do like lip syncing. So my friends did the Talking Heads. And my one, my best friend, she dressed up as David Byrne in the big suit and danced around like that. It was awesome.

Aaron Gobler:

I suddenly had this image of like, Kermit the Frog did did that, too. They had Kermit the Frog in this oversized thing.

Lisa Mazur:

Hahahaha I'll have to look that up.

Aaron Gobler:

"This is not my beautiful house." So that group is a lot of fun. And like I said, the videos are very inventive, "Burning Down the House." You know, the, the projection of David Byrne's face on the highway, as you know, moving on the highway. Just really remarkable stuff.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's like art to me. I mean, it's really its performance. Right?

Aaron Gobler:

Exactly. And you said, you know, at the start, you talked about how their concert was like a performance. So at first I'm thinking well every artist performs, but I think you're describing like, it's actually like a stage show. In some way. It's a full on performance, not just here are songs. But here is an actual performance. Well, thank you so much for including a talking head song. I don't think that anybody has yet. Neither has anybody included a song by the next group. And I'm so excited to include this song. And this is a song by The Smiths, and I think, arguably their most famous song, "How Soon is Now?"

Aaron Gobler.:

Lisa, I never grow tired of the song. Johnny Marr's haunting guitar sound and Morrissey's dour lyrics make the song stand out. And I think it keeps it sounding intriguing today. And what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, I think I agree. Like, when it came out, I was still a teenager. And it really felt like perfectly captured my teenage angst. And I remember, I think when I first heard it, and yeah, it's so like, mesmerizing, right? Like that riff in the beginning. The song was really, I mean, if you listen to the lyrics, the songs really about Morrissey and his extreme shyness, and his social awkwardness, which I think a lot of the Smith songs kind of have that theme. You know, it's like, how you're kind of don't fit in and is you know, and that's why as a teenager, I was like, oh, like, you know, like hearing like that. It just felt like oh, these are my people. But yeah, even to this day, like hearing that song, it's just like, you know, like, you can almost recognize in the first couple notes, right, it's so unique. But I mean, the interesting thing about I was, you know, like you reading about Morrissey, he's such an amazing performer. But he really has suffered, He suffered from really intense, like, social shyness, which is funny to think you're getting up on the stage, and performing in front of thousands of people. But like, on a day to day basis, he really had a lot of anxiety around, you know, having, talking to people, one to one and interacting.

Aaron Gobler:

I mean, I don't know if he had stage fright. But, uh, performing is one thing, but like, I mean, performing in front of a lot of people. It's still kind of impersonal, in a sense, because it's this mass of people. I guess it could be overly personal because you're being very vulnerable to all of them. But it's different than having to go backstage and then have a conversation with another person. And definitely, if you listen to a lot of The Smiths' songs, there's a certain sense of humor in his songs as well. And the way he the way he words things, even on his his solo work in the last couple decades, still has his trademark humor, and wordplay.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's, it's funny once you like, listen, I was listening to a song the other day with my daughter in the car. And I said, all these are the songs I listened to when I was your age, pretty much. And it was sort of ... what was it? Let's see, it was it was definitely about like somebody struggling with suicide. And I'm like, wow, this is intense stuff. But that was it kind of brought to light. I think as a teenager, it just kind of made you feel like oh, like people, you know, like people are dealing with this stuff. Yeah. And you know, you're not alone. But I mean, there's definitely like a sense, like, if you listen to too much of The Smiths you kind of get a little depressed. That's why when one of my friends and I used to say, like, "Oh, you're listening to The Smith's a lot. Oh, I guess you're not feeling ... maybe you're not that happy right now."

Aaron Gobler:

I mean, he does songs about like, you know, if you and I were hit by a truck, or, you know, or ...

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, yeah, that's the one, right.

Aaron Gobler:

Or the "Girlfriend in a Coma", you know?

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. She's gonna make it you know, whatever. It's yeah, yeah.

Lisa Mazur:

I know. And that's kind of funny, but very serious themes, right? Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

There's a song from an album he did called "I Am the Quarry", where he says, "close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire. And let me kiss you." So he's basically saying, you know, he doesn't feel like he's worthy of being kissed. And then he says ... and then after he says that a few times, he says, "you open your eyes, and you see someone you physically despise." You know, so it's just this lyrically the way of flows and the sound of the yeah, just very, very smart.

Lisa Mazur:

So now they're kind of like poets, you know? And that's why I just feel like these between like the Talking Heads, David Byrne, and Morrissey. It's just like, they're just so beyond. I mean, it's not I mean, not only is it good music, but the bands have made but like, the lyrics are so deep and meaningful. You know, it's just, it's not superficial at all.

Aaron Gobler:

No, no, it is really not just writing for the sake of writing, but actually heartfelt and clever at the same time. It doesn't feel like it was just written to fill out an

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I also, this was another album. band, I also saw perform, actually, all three of these songs I've seen performed that I've chosen. So it was amazing, amazing performance I saw in Canada, I because I lived, I grew up around Buffalo, New York. And my friends and I like took a pilgrimage out to Canada to this place called Canada's Wonderland. They had a lot of good concerts out there. So we all went and saw them perform this.

Aaron Gobler:

I'm jealous that you saw that you saw that. The closest that I've had is that Johnny Marr played in Berkeley about three years ago. So he played his own stuff, but he played a number of Smiths' songs, and he did play this. I thought, well, you know, he's not gonna sound like Morrissey, but he has a similar kind of accent sounds voice and so ...

Lisa Mazur:

That'd be a great one, too.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah. And that was you know, that was really so that was kind of cool cuz that's the closest I will have gotten to seeing The Smiths.

Lisa Mazur:

It was really a interesting thing because I did a little research on the song and Johnny Marr said that, um, he was, there was an interview in Rolling Stone about the song "How Soon Is Now?" and he said he wanted the introduction to almost be as like potent and epic as "Leila", from Eric Clapton, and when it plays in a club or you know, any place a bar everyone knows what it is. And I definitely think that's true, right? It's like just the first couple notes. You totally know what, what songs coming on.

Aaron Gobler:

There's nothing else that we've, we've heard that has that kind of trademark sound to it. Yeah, no, it's such a great song. Lisa, the last song on your list is "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve. Let's give that a listen, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Lisa, this was such a huge hit when it came out. And, and I recently learned that The Verve had used a sample of an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones' song, "The Last Time" and it was tied up in all kinds of litigation and it's just recently that the Stones have agreed to then return royalties that they were keeping back to The Verve. They weren't making any money off the ... The Verve wasn't making any money off the song for years.

Lisa Mazur:

I always think it's like the title of the song. It was like Paul, Paul Ashcroft, who's the lead singer of The Verve. It was like his bittersweet symphony, right? I mean if this went on forever. Like from '97 till 2019 they finally resolved that legal dispute. So yeah, he never had had any royalties anytime you hear that song on the radio or anywhere. It went to actually it was the Rolling ... I was just reading like, it was the Rolling Stones manager, the former manager that actually got all the royalties, but Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were credited as the songwriters. So it was it's super strange, right? A strange and long lasting legal dispute between them. Yeah,

Aaron Gobler.:

I'm guessing that's not why you included the song in your list. So tell me what your thoughts are on the song.

Lisa Mazur:

Oh, it was just like another ... I think all three songs that I've chosen. It just feels like there's like this epicness to it. It's like, you know, a symphony. Like this song. It just seems like a theme song to, you know, the 90s in a way. It just, it's just so beautiful. The lyrics are beautiful. The music's beautiful. And I did see him, Paul Ashcroft perform this. He was an opening act for Coldplay. I think I saw them in like 2005 and he was opening act. And I just as I arrived at the concert on Paul Ashcroft, was performing this, it was pretty cool.

Aaron Gobler.:

So just like The Smiths' song, we heard the opening of this song is also recognizable. But yeah, it's definitely kind of dreamlike, little, you know, hypnotic, in it's sound.

Lisa Mazur:

And now as I was thinking about all the songs that I chose, and I thought, wow, yeah, they have like, that kind of same sort of hypnotic-ness to it. Right? It's like very dreamy, like, right. Like other worlds, about life, like a whole other perception of life, in a way, right.

Aaron Gobler:

So the Talking Head's song is kind of quirky and boppy and light, you know. The Smiths' song is very, not very dark, but it's dark feeling.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, definitely. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

And then this song is much more beautiful, and lilt-y and sweeping and soothing. But they all do have that kind of like, put you almost like, in a in a little hypnotic state by the end of the song.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah, I guess that's what I like. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

We discovered that.

Lisa Mazur:

Right. Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

So Lisa, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like things you might have thought of while you were listening to them or something I didn't ask about?

Lisa Mazur:

Music is just so important in our lives. And I mean, I don't know about for everybody, but there's definitely songs that when I hear them, I think specifically about certain things or, you know, about certain moments in my life or certain people. And it's just, you know, I guess there's the saying like "the soundtrack of your life", you know, yeah, um, yeah, but I think it's true, right? It's so influential to mood and where you are in your life sometimes and it's just fun to revisit the music that you've loved at certain points. as well, and one of my favorite things is, you know, like, as I've gotten older, and the music, like all three of these songs, you know, at one point, were considered alternative sort of, you know, or New Wave music or whatever in the 80s. And then sometimes I'll go into like the supermarket. And I'll hear these songs. And I'm like this is the funniest thing in the world, because at one point, these songs were considered really kind of radical, you know, like not mainstream, they got played on a lot of alternative music stations, college radio stations, they definitely were not like in the mainstream pop arena that were played over and over again on, you know, like, those stations. So when I hear these songs being played, as I said, like, as I'm browsing the pasta aisle, in my neighborhood supermarket, I just get a kick out of it.

Aaron Gobler:

But it is kind of funny, like you're saying exactly like you hear you hear this Talking Head song, which is one kind of obscure track off the album. And you might hear that song at Trader Joe's. Yeah. And then you're like, whoa, like you said, that was like cutting edge stuff, you know, so many years ago, and now I'm listening to well, they know who the demographic is shopping in their stores.

Lisa Mazur:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

It's not coincidence.

Lisa Mazur:

No, no. That's awesome. It's always funny, but Well, Lisa, this has been a lot of fun. I really enjoy talking I always think about that too. Because I know. Okay, The Smiths were definitely alternative. And not a lot of people knew them in the 80s. I mean, you know, they're a British band, didn't get played a lot on mainstream US radio. But then I always think about when the music my parents grew up with, right, and with you and and really wonking out on on the music stuff. it's like, how, in late 60s, a lot of the music that was being made, was groundbreaking, right. And it's like, as we grew up, we were just like, Okay, this is just mainstream stuff. It's like what's always been around, but how music has that influence? Right? It's like, so I always think like, Okay, now my kids are growing up, what is that for them? Like, what kind of music has that influence on their lives and what's considered alternative or, you know, kind of not mainstream that maybe one Yeah it's so fun. And it's really hard to pick three. I day will be more mainstream and the evolution of that? It's really fun. It's just fun. Music is so, so fun to listen to, and the evolution of it and people's sampling old songs and you know, remastering them. It's just, it's always fascinating. I wish I had any musical talent, which I don't, to compose music, right. Music, you know, I have a lot of friends who are musicians, and it's like, oh, wow, that's such a cool, cool talent. mean, I could have picked 20 different songs, but for next time.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, I like how we found that theme, you know, across the three of them. That doesn't always gel like that, but that seems pretty spot on. Yeah.

Lisa Mazur:

Songs that are always... it's all always all three songs, I think are just classics.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. So yes, yes, thank you for taking the time to put your list together. And thank you again for being my guest today. And I want to say to my listeners, if you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 38 : My Three Songs with Jessica Chranowski

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake, and welcome everybody to Episode 38. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. today. My guest is Jessica Chranowski. Jessica is another Facebook friend of mine. She's a holistic health practitioner and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher. She's also a Production Coordinator for the San Diego Theater, which includes the San Diego opera, San Diego Broadway, and the ballet. Jessica, we've known each other through Facebook, and you shared many stories of your work doing professional massage therapy for musicians and actors prior to performances. What else can you tell me about what you do?

Jessica Chranowski:

Thank you so much for having me here today, Aaron. I'm very excited to be here. So yes, I own Pure Life Therapy. I started my business in 1999. And I am a holistic health practitioner and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction teacher. So I have a massage therapy practice in San Diego, California. And one of my biggest clients is the music industry and show business. So whenever the stars or their crew need a massage therapist, I'm the one who's called. And it has been an amazing journey over the last two decades being able to work in this industry. Now when the economy crashed in, I believe 2007 or 2008, I started working on the production teams. I had been doing a lot of corporate massage, working with a lot of companies and when the economy crashed, they had to take massage therapy out of their budget. So I started looking for other work. I love working in production, it is so much fun to be able to help all the different parts of a show happen. So we basically work with the audio department, video department, lighting, props, carbs, riggers, everyone to make sure that the show happens and that the tour goes on to the next city happy and safe. So the pandemic hits, and I lost everything. I had to pause my massage therapy practice. There were no concerts for us to go to, there's no concerts to work at. So I decided to accelerate my business plan. I jumped into the program at UCSD Center for Mindfulness and started my MBSR teacher training. That's Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. Okay. Since then, I have taught this nine week program several times and it is amazing the health benefits of mindfulness. I chose the program at UCSD because it's very neurologically based. It's scientifically tested. And that is what I love about my practice.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. Thank you for all that background. When we go to a concert or a show, we see the performance and we can imagine what's going on backstage in preparation and catering and all that stuff. But my mind doesn't immediately go to things like massage therapy and other things to be sure that performers are physically and mentally psychologically prepared. But it sounds like that really is a key component to to ongoing health and both mental and physical for performers.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yes. 100%. A lot of the successful performers realize that their mind and their bodies have to be in tip top shape to be able to be creative, and to not just show up on stage for an hour or an hour and a half. But to also continue that one off stage with creating new music and increasing your skills and talents.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. So Jessica, I'm really psyched to talk to you today about music. What inspired you to be on the show?

Jessica Chranowski:

Well, I love music. Music is my life. It's my career. I was named after a song. I don't watch TV. I watch movies maybe once or twice a month. I always have music playing always.

Aaron Gobler:

So it sounds like music is in your life pretty much daily. Do you mostly have it in the background? Or are you regularly seeking out particular songs throughout the day to kind of put it in the foreground?

Jessica Chranowski:

I have it on shuffle in the background. Okay, my music tastes ranges from jazz to rock to pop to hard rock, whatever comes up ... 80's. I like all types of music. So when it's on shuffle, it always surprises me with what is played.

Aaron Gobler:

So it sounds like you can take in all these different types of styles in like what you're calling a shuffle, as opposed to say a playlist somebody might have for like when they're in this kind of mood, or want to be put in this kind of mood for you. It sounds like it's more invigorating or interesting to just not know what kind of style is going to be next.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yes, I really like to just leave it up to whatever happens. So I prefer to have the music on shuffle because I like to just go with the flow and see what gets played randomly. But I do have certain stations that I listen to to help me get into certain moods. Like I like to listen to Neil Young radio before going to bed. I find it very relaxing, but also like Ray LaMontagne before bed, very relaxing. And if I have to get myself invigorated, I'll put on maybe the Ramones or Violent Femmes, or I want to feel nostalgic, I'll put on 90s alternative um just be creative with knowing how music affects my moods and emotions.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm, do you find that you enjoy more songs that you're already familiar with? Or does it more interesting to you to hear new stuff that you haven't heard? Or is it a combination?

Jessica Chranowski:

Combination? Because I love singing? So I sing along to a lot of songs that I know.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Fascinating. Every guest has their own way of listening. And they can use music as for kind of a medicinal or psychologically, mind altering kind of thing. It really is fascinating how, how we all use it differently in our lives.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yes, I mean, we have a heartbeat and music has beats and it affects how we feel neurologically as well.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, Jessica, let's jump into the songs that you chose. They are "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty from 1989, "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin from 1971 and "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young from 1992. Now I know all these songs, and this is a great selection. I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs, and I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's jump into the first song Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."

Jessica Chranowski:

Oh, I love that song.

Aaron Gobler:

It's a really wonderful song. And Jessica I'm a big fan of Tom Petty's, too. The album this song is off of "Full Moon Fever" was coproduced by one of my idols Jeff Lynn of ELO. And Jeff Lynn and Petty were already recording as part of the Traveling Wilburys when Petty released this album. And you can hear all that same kind of similar, you can hear that similar Wilbury sound in there. What inspired you to include this on your list?

Jessica Chranowski:

Oh, this is one of my motivation songs when I'm feeling low or troubled or ruminating with emotions or mental things, the song comes on. And because I always have my music on shuffle up, so the song will come on. And suddenly I know that I can do what I want to do, and I'm going to achieve my goals.

Aaron Gobler:

Okay.

Jessica Chranowski:

Because I started my business as a teenager, and I didn't know what I was getting into. But I love a challenge and I won't back down.

Aaron Gobler:

So you're not necessarily seeking this song out, you're saying it's on your playlist or on the shuffle and then it comes on and all of a sudden, you're kind of like transported to this when you were younger. And and maybe when you heard that song when you were younger, how it gave you inspiration then?

Jessica Chranowski:

Yeah, it fills me with a sense of confidence and ease and trust in myself that whatever problems I'm dealing with, or whatever, I'm trying to navigate being a business owner, or just navigate being a human, that I know I can achieve it, I know that I can do what I want to do, because I won't back down. I'll keep trying. Try again. And I'll keep trying.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you ever find yourself seeking the song out? If you're in a mood, mood or mode where you feel like, you feel a little beaten down?

Jessica Chranowski:

No, I haven't. That might be a good idea. Thank you.

Aaron Gobler:

I've had guests who say like they have a certain song they play when they want to have a good cry. So it's like that songs can be that way. You know, can put you, maybe reset you into some mood or mode. But it sounds like just from personal experience and I'm sure you experienced this too, is that any one particular song on your playlist could all of a sudden just like... you could maybe stop what you're doing and just kind of take it in and then move on. Or you can find that you've shifted all of a sudden in your thing in your mindset or whatever without even seeking that song out. But that song came on kinda like you're describing this song, then I'm sure other songs have a similar kind of reaction.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yes, exactly. I like to sort of leave it up to fate.

Aaron Gobler:

That's, that's an interesting approach. And again, like going back to the whole shuffle ideas, you don't know what the next song is gonna be. And you could be in a whole different place in your mind when that when that song comes on. I mean, the song conceptually is very straightforward. And I think that's part of its attraction. It's not really heavy duty.

Jessica Chranowski:

Uhuh, exactly.

Aaron Gobler:

It's great. Yeah.

Jessica Chranowski:

And it's easy. It's an easy song to remember the words to, so.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, thank you for including that on your list. The next on your list is "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin from 1971. So let's give that listen, and we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

Jessica, Led Zeppelin is really known for their early hard rock and heavy metal type sounds. But this song is really folksy. Much different than the last Led Zeppelin song I played on this show, which was "Fool in the Rain." What inspired you to include this song on your list?

Jessica Chranowski:

I absolutely adore the song. It is so beautiful. It's so poetic. It's, it's another one of my inspiring songs that I like to play what I end up hearing when I'm feeling low or feeling like I can't achieve the things that I want. There's one key line in the song for me. And it is, "...standing on the hill of my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard as it seems."

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah.

Jessica Chranowski:

And when I first heard that line, it hit me straight to the heart of just, you can do these things that you want to do. You can achieve things that you want to achieve and change the world in a way that you have the ability to.

Aaron Gobler:

And do you interpret that line as meaning like standing on the hill of my mountain of dreams, meaning I've reached my dreams, or where do you see that ... is that like you've accomplished your dreams, and you're realizing it wasn't as hard as it seems?

Jessica Chranowski:

I have a visualization of like I have what I want to happen in my future. And I'm not there yet. And that future keeps shifting and changing. So I kind of see myself like on a hike and I see the mountain top that I want to get to and I'm just on a hill looking at the mountain top.

Aaron Gobler:

Specifically those lyrics make you realize or make you feel compelled that you can keep going up that mountain that you're ... that it's a journey. And obviously a lot of different ways you can go up the mountain, but you're gonna keep going up and keep trying to achieve.

Jessica Chranowski:

Exactly, yeah, yeah. It's a journey. It's not a destination.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, yes, I think so much of life, we we just keep focusing on getting from A to B, and not realizing that most of the growth and learning comes from, from the path we take from A to B. Not just reaching that ridge and just reaching the end, per se.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yeah, we're, we're on the hills. And the mountain, you know, is way off in the distance.

Aaron Gobler:

Song is very beautiful. It's very simple compared to some other other songs which have so many layers of sound. Just very interesting sounds. I don't know a lot of Led Zeppelin songs. But this is different than most of the ones that I've heard.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yeah, the sound is very dreamy, isn't it?

Aaron Gobler:

Yes. Mm hmm. That's a very interesting point that that whole echoey sound is kind of evocative of a dream state and kind of eerie in a sense, too.

Jessica Chranowski:

Mm hmm.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Yeah.

Jessica Chranowski:

Robert Plant is a huge Tolkien fan. So a lot of music sort of has that flavor, the Tolkien flavor, the fantasy, the mystery, the the adventure?

Aaron Gobler:

Mm hmm. Yeah, I can't think of it now. But there is a one very popular song by Led Zeppelin where there's a lot of references to Tolkien characters. And I remember it dawning on me when I heard that song and think and thinking wait, is he really talking about this? I had to go look the lyrics up. And yeah, it was references to Tolkien characters.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yeah, I'm drawing a blank to that song too. I can't think of it but yes, 100%.

Aaron Gobler:

Like, wait, it's one of those double takes, you know, like, Wait, did they just say that? Now the last song on your list is stylistically similar to the Led Zeppelin song in that it's simple, it's got very simple instrumentation, focuses on on a guitar sound primarily. And it is just a lovely song. And I'm so glad you included this on your list. So let's give a listen to "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young.

Aaron Gobler.:

Jessica, this song is so simple and so beautiful. Again, I'm really glad you included it on your list. I enjoy it so much each time I hear it. Why did you choose the song?

Jessica Chranowski:

I just love that song. I'm such a romantic and just the words of the song just make my heart flutter in delight. And also I my dad is Canadian. So I was raised listening to Neil Young, so it just brings all sorts of feelings of love. Yeah, yes. It's also a lovely song to slow dance to.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, I would imagine. Especially if you're outside under a moon.

Jessica Chranowski:

Oh my goodness.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I'm getting romantic about that.

Jessica Chranowski:

See, it brings up romantic feelings.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Jessica, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like things you may have thought of while we were listening to them or questions I hadn't asked you or things you want to say?

Jessica Chranowski:

Well, all three of these songs that I picked, were very impactful for me. So when you first asked me to be a guest, I really reflected upon what songs mean so much to me in my life. So sharing my thoughts and the songs with your listeners, it was really a huge leap of courage for me in vulnerability and sharing my experiences and thoughts and feelings with them. And I hope that having this courage to speak from my heart can help other people to connect to music in new ways, and to have the courage for them to claim what is right for their heart as well.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's beautiful, the way you put it. I've had guests say that it's very easy for them to come up with their list, or it was they knew right away, and others like, you know, who've taken some time to curate the list. And I have found it to be a learning experience or a cathartic experience. But they're, they're glad that they did it. And then on a personal note, myself, when I first thought of using this concept, my family asked me what my songs will be. And I just very frankly, I don't know, I have not put my list together. And I've spent months now in my mind thinking like, what would I use? So maybe it's maybe at some point, I'll take the other side. And I'll pick my three songs. But it's, it's really fun getting to know people better, or people I've known for a while, learn more about them through their songs and through their descriptions of how those songs have have impacted them or what they mean to them.

Jessica Chranowski:

Yeah, this concept for your show is incredible. And yeah, I highly recommend you to do some soul searching and see what songs. It was fun because you asked me several months ago to be a guest and I had to take my time and listen to a lot of music to be like this one. This one. And I changed my song last night to "Harvest Moon" and I was like, Oh, yes, of course.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, yeah. That was a great choice.

Jessica Chranowski:

Thank you.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I had a very nice time. And and I'm glad this was a good experience for you. And I want to thank you again for for taking the time to be on the show today. And I know we talked about doing this a quite a while ago and I'm glad that I got you on and thank you again for your for your list. To my listeners if you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music.

Aaron Gobler.:

So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 37 : My Three Songs with David Kersten

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 37. Welcome to My Three Songs where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is David Kersten. David also lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and I've known him for several years. He's a professional photographer, videographer and an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco. And I'd like to add a special note of appreciation to David today. He's been producing live Facebook business interviews nearly every Tuesday for the past year or so. And his dedication to the craft and his disciplined schedule were part of my inspiration for starting my interview format. And I've also been a guest on his shows as well. So David, thank you so much for your inspiration and thank you for being my guest today. I'm psyched to talk with you about music, what inspired you to be on the show?

David Kersten:

I'm really you know, I've been intrigued by your show for a while I love your artwork and the concept. You know, music is one of my favorite topics to think about. And normally I don't talk about it with anybody. So it's nice to actually have somebody who shares that same passion and, you know, talk about some music.

Aaron Gobler:

That raises interesting thought in my mind in that music can be a very personal thing. We never know how another person's gonna respond to us talking about music or about the music we enjoy. And I have found for my guests that they appreciate having this kind of forum where they can get kind of geeky about the music or get really, really into the music or very passionate about it. And I'm glad this can be a great venue for opening up about music and sharing your your interests and your, your background in it.

David Kersten:

Yeah, no, I agree. And there's so much to music, you know? I feel like certain music reflects parts of our personality or times in our lives. So, you know, for me music, you know, I love Schopenhauer actually said kind of music was basically the most important thing in the universe because it contains, you know, all the important elements. And he didn't quite say it like that. But, you know, I would really agree with that in not in his exact words. But as far as it's importance.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I can't imagine my life without music. It is similar to visual art, just auditory art has a certain magic and inspiration and can trigger all kinds of feelings, emotions, and bring back memories. Very, very powerful things in your mind.

David Kersten:

Yeah, part of it. I just add to that I actually use it for business now because I put it in my videos, I really have gotten such a deeper understanding of how important music is for creating feeling and thoughts. And I just think a lot of people don't really realize how influential music is, you know, in the whole world and kind of the, you know, TV or all these mediums that we consume.

Aaron Gobler:

I think that a lot of people enjoy visual media like movies or television and don't, like you're saying, don't really necessarily understand how the music is being used as a mechanism to set their expectations or their attitudes or be like an auditory establishing shot. For example, one of my previous guests, Dan Kaplow is a Hollywood television and movie producer. And we had a great discussion in his interview, about how he selects music and how his deep background in music has really inspired him and instructed him on how to to effectively use music in visual media.

David Kersten:

Very interesting. That's a topic I'm interested in learning more about for example, I think it's interesting in movies how certain characters like have their own score, select the Joker, or Batman so when that character appears, you get that certain feeling and there's such a really an impressive kind of art and science to it that these Hollywood greats really, you know, use to create this movie magic.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. And then the the viewer doesn't necessarily know consciously or, or think about consciously that this is going on. And but it is being used scientifically like you said. So David, before we get started, can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or the background of each day,

David Kersten:

You know, it's really kind of in the in between, it's, throughout my day, I mean, I, I do a lot of commuting with two girls that I take to school. So I listen to it in the car, and all my meetings, I do listen to music at night for even like an hour, maybe even more, sometimes I watch a lot, some music, videos, and Spotify. So it's really something that I use to kind of relax and inspire me and something that kind of re-energizes me and energizes me to really connect with, kind of let go of my daily day and just be happy. And in my zone, kind of.

Aaron Gobler:

Mhmm. Do you seek out certain playlist or certain artists at different times, or just kind of switch on Spotify or whatever, and what's playing or what's already there is something you listen to?

David Kersten:

Um, I mean, I listen to a lot of the same artists songs over and over some every night I'll listen to it, and I do change, I do like to go through my YouTube feed and see what new videos or songs that are coming out. And YouTube actually puts these playlists together things that you've listened to. So it might be some I listened to a month ago, and it'll pop back up, I kind of listened to a lot of this same stuff at night. But then during the day, I do use Pandora and that has a lot of these playlists that are put together that I've listened to these songs so many times, but they never get old. They're just part of what makes me happy living my life. So my one regret is that I don't discover enough new music because when we find new songs, and they kind of become part of our list I tried to build that into and Pandora does put that in there. But I would like to kind of continue to discover new music.

Aaron Gobler:

I find it fascinating that you and I and others, I'm sure many, many other people feel guilty in some capacity of not listening to new stuff as much. I'm not about to explore why that is, I think it's perfectly fine to keep listening to the stuff that you enjoy. There's, for me, it's certainly an excitement of hearing something that I've never heard before that I'm like, wow now that's one of my favorites. But I don't go down that path enough, there was a period of time where I would be like, you know, tuning into Pandora, and letting it play songs for me. And and I'd find some some new favorites. But, but that generally is not my mode. I don't know why we feel sometimes we can feel guilty about not listening to the newer stuff.

David Kersten:

Yeah, that's what can be fun about going to an event or going to a friend's house and having them pick the music and just turn it over to because it's something maybe we wouldn't normally listen to. But then when you start listening to it, you're like, Oh, this is great, or I never even knew this band existed. Or maybe it's a whole genre that we didn't know about. So discovering stuff on just online, I'll be going through Facebook, or you'll hear certain songs that are used. And I do have kind of a professional use for it too. And that I buy a lot of music online that is not lyrics but it's like certain like, I don't know, like Far Eastern pop, or stomp or all these different genres. And those are kind of like tracks I use for my videos. So I just kind of study it and use it in my in my life too. So I'm always trying to find new outlets. That's what I love really about, you know, Spotify, you can get almost anything on there. If you know what it is. If you know what it's called.

Aaron Gobler:

It's intriguing to consider that you know, since you're searching for music for a particular purpose for your work, that is kind of making you be more open or searching for different kinds of sounds. And then also hearing those sounds in your mind you're imagining how you can attach those sounds to certain visuals.

David Kersten:

Yeah, music is really the feeling of a video. Not everybody gets how much goes into video, but music is really the key to that so I believe a whole song can make a video if it has the vibe that you want. Depending on the video I could put The Police or New Order in there but I actually like to kind of create my own without lyrics so you're getting that vibe. It's not the easy way out everybody knows The Police you know "Walking On The Moon" which I love but I I love to be able to try to like create my own little music based on these samples or tracks that I get because the great musics out there. And it's either common license or it's licensed to me, I just have to like know how to use. So kind of a hobby of mine is to just go through these different playlists and listen to stuff. And every time I buy a new playlist, I listen to the music.

Aaron Gobler:

So why don't we jump right into the songs we already mentioned a couple of songs that are in your list. And here they are in the order, we'll be playing them. The first song is "Cuts You Up" by Peter Murphy from 1990. Then we're going to hear "Walking On The Moon" by The Police from 1979. And finally, "Blue Monday," by New Order for 1983. I had not heard the first song before, but I'm familiar with the others. And I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs together. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's start with the first song, "Cuts You Up" by Peter Murphy.

Aaron Gobler.:

David, this was Peter Murphy's most successful hit. And as I listen to it, I'm feeling like it's got a Bowie-esque kind of feel. And it also struck me as both like being somewhat melancholy and danceable at the same time, if that's possible. So what inspired you to include this song on your list?

David Kersten:

So there is really a lot to this song and some of the songs that I chose that they really almost created their whole genre of music. And I actually hadn't hadn't heard this song until a couple years ago, and maybe I'd heard it but I didn't know. But you know, I follow the Chinese proverb, "we never see what we see until we're ready to see it." And as long as it kind of about personal discovery, and, you know, growth, and I just think I wasn't really into that is much earlier on in my life. And, you know, if you look in the Peter, he just started to fascinate me as an artist, how he is basically known as the kind of godfather of the goth movement, which is a whole music genre and movement, you know, people identified with that in high school or throughout my life, but I never understood that didn't kind of click with me at that time. But I think when you listen to this song, you know, just knowing that history, and it's really about a personal journey, that he actually went and traveled over to India and was inspired by his own personal growth and journey. And then he put that into his music. So, you know, this, this song is really inspiring, and it has incredible melodies, about overcoming challenges, he says, "we're going to cut the thick and break the thin" and it's really about kind of overcoming barriers to being a better self, a better person, and a better, whatever we want to become. So if you really look at the the lyrics and the intent behind it, it, it is really the full package, in my opinion.

Aaron Gobler.:

And did you find when you heard it, that it was inspiring to you, or that it matched with your current journey or both.

David Kersten:

I mean, both I really like songs that I can listen to over and over because they just make me kind of feel good and think about things and feel the way I want to feel. And this one made me think just makes me think about being making progress and being hopeful for the future and being overcoming challenges and obstacles. And it's just so nice to spend part of our day, feeling like that, because that actually helps us make that progress in our lives. I really see music as helping facilitate our progress in life if we pick the right ones that kind of make us feel the way we want to feel.

Aaron Gobler:

And are you the kind of person who will say like, Okay, this song is really inspirational or something really resonates with you from a song and then seek out other music from that artist?

David Kersten:

You know, I'm interested in some of his other music, but this is really the only song ... I actually have another couple of his songs on my playlist on Pandora which I really liked. But this is you know, the song I listened to most of the time from him and he has some other very interesting music and his music kind of really changed over the years as well. So I forget how the one artist Jay Z put it you know, "you don't want just a song you want a classic" and I really see this as a classic. These certain classics, I can just never get enough of you just listen can listen to them over and over and over and over.

Aaron Gobler:

I guess in the business they call certain songs, one, you know, certain groups, one hit wonders. And I actually had a discussion about that in a previous episode about one hit wonders. I mean, in some cases, an artist just will hit upon an amazing song or just, they'll just release something that's really fantastic and then nothing else that they produce matches that and in some cases the artist actually has put out a lot other good stuff, it just nothing is matched the big hit. And in some cases, it seems like it was just inspired. That song is like, it's a wonderful song, but then the rest of the stuff that they've done is not as inspiring.

David Kersten:

Yeah, you know, I think part of that is, some of this music really takes a team to create, I don't know all the elements, I'm interested in finding out more about that. But really, you know, if you listen in the beginning of this song, that's an electronic, it's not a cello or wood, it's not actual stringed instrument that's electronic. So you almost need other people to help you create some of these melodies or the beats, and then you bring the lyrics. So I really see that as a challenge for artists that maybe is like a one hit wonder they get, I hate to say lucky, but they produce maybe everything on their own, or some something comes to them, but to actually set up a ongoing process to create hit after hit. That is more than one person that I see, in most cases. Maybe Taylor Swift or somebody, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think there's so many elements that kind of have to fall into place for that the true hits like them.

Aaron Gobler:

Mm hmm.

David Kersten:

Yeah, and one other thing I'll say about this, that is such an interesting point. And I'm glad we're talking about this is that I think there's almost a certain renaissance around certain music that not unlike Italy, you know, back in the Renaissance period, but like, not early 80s, for you know, that some of that music, we're going to talk about next New Order, where people create this whole genre, and they were inspired by other artists right before them. And then the whole industry kind of feeds off of one another, you know, I think we saw it with house music in the Bay Area. And you see it in hip hop, that when when a genre kind of breaks out, all the people who were doing it really inspire one another, and there's just this kind of explosion of creativity. And that's what I see with this, goth, you know, the goth movement, and this music that I think this song really inspired a whole different genre of creativity, and you don't see songs exactly like this, but people heard that music and go, Whoa, this is completely different than anything I've heard before. And then they give their own mix on it's kind of like Led Zeppelin or, you know, the Beatles. So they come along, and then they bring with them this whole new movement of music, that's just an exciting experience, you know?

Aaron Gobler:

I have this a somewhat cynical approach to some of this. And that, like, when Dave Matthews Band came out, that there's an example where I hadn't heard a sound like that before. And then suddenly, there were just like, suddenly, you know, within a month or so, there, all of a sudden, all these other bands out there sounding very similar that were, you know, coming out with hits and such. And in my cynical mind, I'm imagining that there are record companies that had demo tapes of these bands, and thought it was not marketable, mainstream marketable music. And when they saw that Dave Matthews Band had broken through, they're like, you know, pulling out all these tapes and getting their people to, to bring these bands back in and, and such. So that's my cynical view of that, that it inspired, that certainly, he inspired other people, but I think other people may have been doing similar music, but just never getting it out there in the mainstream.

David Kersten:

Yeah, no, you're definitely right about that. And there is a element of the music industry where people try to copy what's successful, what, so what's come after is kind of like trying to copy it. But, you know, if you do look at, you know, I think all those breakout artists, you know, and I'd say, you know, the punk movement, or the 80s, you know, when I grew up, those were my, that was my music when I was growing up in the 80s, that you see bands like Bad Religion, that, you know, still aren't like the huge commercial success that, you know, maybe Green Day is. And they were kind of inspired from basically like garage bands, like, you know, Circle Jerks, or D.I., a lot of bands that people never even heard of even bands from England that nobody had ever heard of. Because it was kind of like an underground movement. But then these bands are inspired by them. And then they come kind of popularize it, you know, like Green Day, which was until like, the early 90s, that kind of punk went mainstream, so to speak. So that's the beautiful thing about music is you really see this collaboration and inspiration of, you know, ideas are like that too. But you really see it in music, too. So I've always been fascinated by artists and you know how these people just seemingly overnight, just come onto the scene and completely blow up. You know, like, I remember Green Day in '94. You know, they went from, I saw them in the city of San Francisco a couple years ago, they were before that they were opening for Bad Religion. And then two years later, they're playing, you know, all the sports arenas all around the US. And today, they still play in sports arenas around the US when they go on tour. You know, 25 years later, their music influences are timeless, so yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I agree.

David Kersten:

They're, they're actually right here in Oakland, too. So I drink their coffee. So like, as an example, they actually used to play right, a half block away from my house, or they still play, there's little, they'd like to play some kind of smaller scenes. So it's just exciting scene here in the Bay Area with all types of music, really.

Aaron Gobler:

David, your next song is "Walking On The Moon" by The Police. So let's listen to that right now. And we'll talk about it on the other side.

Aaron Gobler.:

David, The Police are best known for their for their later hits, like "Every Breath You Take" and "King of Pain." But I'm still more of a fan of the work from their first two albums. Like I said before, this is one of my favorites by them, what inspired you to include this song on your list?

David Kersten:

You know, there's a number of things, this is another one of those classics, and definitely one of my top three songs from them. But you know, it really reminds me of a certain time of my life back in college, you know, that was when I first started listening to it on this $5 radio, and I never get tired of this song. And, you know, a whole metaphor that I use for my business. And really life in generals is kind of space metaphor. So you know, this idea of weightlessness, walking on the moon paired with these just beautiful, like those guitar riffs and then the bass line with the lyrics, it has just such a amazing formula for the song. So you know, I really just like the, the uniqueness of it to talk about you just feel like you can envision yourself, you know, on the moon kind of floating in one of those moon suits that have like the weighted boots, taking a step. So it just always brings that image to my mind, which I don't hear that in any other song in terms of bringing that that image and feeling to my mind. So that's what really makes this song special. I do think The Police are an amazing band with their, you know, melodies and their songwriting, and just all the, you know, they've just turned out the classics. And this is one of my favorites.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, one of the things I'm really enjoying about producing the show is sitting here in a quiet room, just listening to the song and studying it as opposed to just kind of doing something else and having it in the background. And as you're talking about the moonwalk, I mean basically, that's what he's talking about in the song. I'm thinking about how Sting is the bassist in the band. And he also wrote this song so there's a heavy baseline in this. And then there's this dun dun dun that, that kind of like end sound of each stroke there. And it's almost like it's almost in a pattern of if you imagine that you're walking, and each time your foot hits the ground. Because when you're walking on the moon, it seems like you're floating for a period of time and then you come back down again. And so I'm now imagining that kind of sound accompanying somebody walking on the moon, so I don't know if they were trying to like simulate that kind of feel of buoyancy and then boom, whenever you land on the moon.

David Kersten:

Yeah, no, had to be deliberate. Yeah, I mean, Sting is a genius with that.

Aaron Gobler:

David, let's move on to the third song on your list, which is "Blue Monday" by New Order.

Aaron Gobler.:

David, this song oozes the 80s sound that has lots of keyboards and drum machines and the tempo is is very upbeat. But overall, it kind of leaves me with a chilled feeling especially with with the spoken lyrics instead of them being sung. So why did you choose to include the song?

David Kersten:

I mean, this is one of my favorite songs ever. And I really chosen because it really created a whole new genre and music. I think, you know, that wasn't only then this is a representative of a whole new movement that when we got this technology in the early 80s, or maybe the late 70s to do that type of electronic drums. We got music that we'd never heard before anything like it, and I, you know, the energy that's conveyed in those electronic drum beats, and then I do like, I agree with you the chilling lyrics, you know, and then that baseline that goes with it is such a unique feel and vibe. And, you know, this is great dance music to you know, I grew up a dancer and you know, to match those beats in the tempo on the dance floor. It's just some, you know, powerful music and in terms of the energy, and the feeling created that is so unique.

Aaron Gobler:

It has a kind of goth feel to it also. That also seemed to be somewhat of a sub theme in a number of songs from the 80s. Would you agree?

David Kersten:

Yeah, yeah, that kind of a little bit colder, more emo. You know, I don't quite know, like I said, I actually don't listen to goth as one of my primary genres. But then people say tha'st goth, and I like some, I like some of it. So, you know, it's really a blending. Yeah, it does have pretty crazy lyrics too if you listen to it. I'm curious how they actually came up with this song, or what was the motive behind the lyrics and things because it's, I just love some of that wackiness and craziness of the 80s. And you see that music that it's just so off the wall, some of it that it's just, it's just fun stuff to listen to and dance to not have looked at the lyrics and tried to understand them at times. And I'm never quite can get to the bottom of it. But this person was slighted and made to feel cold. So they kind of rebel back. And then they this is their kind of response, you know, which is interesting.

Aaron Gobler:

Huh, and it does immediately bring you back to the 80s. For me, when I hear the song, it's like, just epitomizes this, the kind of, you know, like you said, the the, the drum machine, the drum that percussion sounds were new. But then they became kind of rote by the end of the 80s. Everybody was using these drum machines and reverse gate drums and all kinds of reverb. And this was kind of fresh when this came out. And I'm also thinking about the song "Cars" by Gary Newman. And I don't remember what year that came out. But that was also kind of a revolutionary song around that time. Well, thank you, David, for this discussion. It was great listening to these songs with you and talking about them and how they impacted your life. I hope you had a good time, too.

David Kersten:

Yeah, no, I did. Definitely. And it was nice to spend the time with you. I think music is so much about feeling and I love analyzing things. But sometimes you just have to feel and experience it. And we can't really get to the bottom of everything. But I love to try to and just share how these things make us feel in those certain eras and music and how, you know, to really just kind of music takes you back to, you know, when you first lived and started liking that song. And we can put that on today and feel like kind of like we did back then. So it's such a nice idea for a podcast, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to you know, share these experiences with you.

Aaron Gobler.:

Great, thank you for your time today and for putting your list together and being on the show. And to my listeners. If you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list, so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's radio show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. So until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 36 : My Three Songs with Evelyn Freitas

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California. It's Aaron's Radio Show, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guests, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Evelyn Freitas. Evelyn also lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I've known her for several years. She's an amazing mortgage broker, and her partner Jake is the golden voice that welcomes you to each episode of the show. Evelyn, thank you so much for being my guest. today. I'm psyched to talk with you about music. What inspired you to be on the show?

Evelyn Freitas:

Well, first of all, thank you, Aaron for having me on the show. I have to say I was inspired to be on the show because I've always wanted to be a radio DJ myself. And I've taken advantage of virtually any chance I ever gotten to be on the radio my whole life from calling in to see if I could be the 10th caller to win an album to calling in to the college radio station at UC Berkeley KALX while, I was going to school there. So this is just helping me live out part of my dream.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you again for taking the time to make your list and sharing it with me. Evelyn, before we get started, can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually in the foreground or background of each day?

Evelyn Freitas:

I would say that music is in the forefront of my life. I have loved music ever since I was a child. I grew up playing music and I listened to music. You know, pretty much every day. I love all kinds of music. So on a daily basis, I'm listening to music, I've usually got some some kind of a streaming thing playing in the background at home. I usually play Pandora on you know, whatever kind of music is fitting my mood of the day. So it's an ever present thing. And it's been an ever present thing in my life. For as long as I can remember.

Aaron Gobler:

You said that you had played music when you were younger? Is that you mean you're you are an instrumentalist at some point.

Evelyn Freitas:

Yes. So I started in fourth grade, I started playing clarinet in school band me too. And fortunately fortunately for everyone, thanks to an orthodontic issue. I switched to the flute in fifth grade. And so I played flute in band. all through high school, I was in a marching band that marched in the 1976 Tournament of Roses Parade. I went on to study jazz and jazz improvisation on the flute. And that eventually took me to getting very interested in rhythm. So I switched to drums at the age of about 25. And I played in a couple of local bands that I'm positive you've never heard of. And so yes, I love to play music, I love to listen to music, I haven't really played much for quite a while. Okay, but for I still have my wonderful vintage Gretsch drum kit and I love to play my drums once in a while.

Aaron Gobler:

That's awesome. And having learned and played instruments, and several different types of instruments like you're describing, when you hear music, can you in your mind separate out the different parts? Can you can you like, listen to the same song a few different times and actually, like, concentrate on a particular part of that song because you are familiar with that kind of tone?

Evelyn Freitas:

That's a great question. Yes, I am able to focus on the different parts. In fact, part of the training that I did when I played jazz flute, was to listen to each part of a song and then sing it and then sing it in a different key. However, still sing that same part. Okay, so anyone who spends very much time with me will tell you that I will be more likely to sing the guitar solo Then the words the song because I actually may know that part better.

Aaron Gobler:

Hmm. Okay? Are there times where you'll hear a song for the first time and something would jump out about it instrumentally that will spark something in you that maybe wouldn't just in the in a general listener,

Evelyn Freitas:

you know, it can be something that jumps out at me musically, it can be an interesting time signature, or an interesting sound that I haven't heard before. And it can also be just, you know, a feeling that really grabs me and draws me in. And I think that's something about each one of these songs today, perhaps in a different way. It's, in a way for me, it's got to be both to be a song that I truly love for it to be captivating.

Aaron Gobler:

Are you currently playing any instrument or practicing? You mentioned you pick up the drums once in a while. But is there anything else that you're actually like still practicing? Or? Or toying with now and then?

Evelyn Freitas:

No, not really, I just enjoy playing along or singing along and, you know, one of the things that I really have missed over the last couple of years is going to see live music locally. So I think at this point, I feel like I'm more of a spectator than a performer.

Aaron Gobler:

Was it a challenge for you to come up with your list? Or was it something that you like, right away ... you had this gut feeling that these were the songs,

Evelyn Freitas:

It was quite a challenge to come up with the list. Because ... was it my favorite songs? Was it songs that I love to listen to? So loving music as much as I do, how could I narrow it down to three songs? That was the difficult part really was picking three songs. And then I would just think of another song. So for a while, it was just sort of a process of, you know, throwing out one song in favor of another until I ended up with my ultimate list.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. Thank you for describing your process. I've had some guests that say, oh, like these are not necessarily their three favorite songs, but they just knew right away, these were the ones I wanted to use. And for others, it's been a much more methodical. And some people have said it took them a couple months to finally say they were comfortable with their list, but by no means does it have to be your favorites. Before I go through the song names. Can you tell me Is there some kind of general theme that you've discovered after you put the list together?

Evelyn Freitas:

Yes, there is. And actually the theme, once I realized one of the things that I really truly love about music and living here in the Bay Area, it made the themes sort of pop out from the background of everything I was listening to. And so if anything, the theme is that these are all musicians from right here in the Bay Area. And that's really wonderful. That's one of the great advantages of living here in the area. Where we are is that there is so much fantastic music that comes from this area that you literally can just go watch the performer play it live. That's really something.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it is. Evelyn, the songs you chose were "Callin' Out", by Lyrics Born, from 2003; "Moon Over Marin", by the Dead Kennedys, from 1982; and "Positive Contact", by Deltron 3030, which was from the year 2000. So before I listened to your songs, I mentioned I had never heard of any of them before. I've known about the Dead Kennedys for quite a while but I don't believe I had heard any of their songs. So I'm definitely eager for us both to listen to these songs together. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So let's start out with the first song which is "Callin' Out" by Lyrics Born. Evelyn, this song is so funky and it sounds to me like ... the sounds I hear in it are like some of the O'Jays, and James Brown, and some late-70's bass-driven stuff by Chic. What inspired you to include this on your list?

Evelyn Freitas:

It is such a great, funky song. It is so absolutely upbeat, both in the sound and in the take on the ups and downs of life. It's got a call-and-response thing going on which is absolutely fantastic to just draw you in as you're listening to it, I find this song very difficult to sit still too. I mean, it is just a funk dance hit at my house for sure. Okay, if I had a radio show, I might open my show with this song because it's just calling the people out saying, you know, are you ready? Let's get this started. And it's really one of the things I love about listening to lyrics born, he incorporates an incredible variety of sounds and styles into his music. And yet, it's always funky, and really fun. It's just really fun music to listen to,

Aaron Gobler:

And thank you so much for choosing it. Through the show, I've been exposed to a lot of stuff that I wouldn't have normally sought out or was even be aware of. And like, as I mentioned, in right after we finished listening to it, I often ... after the song plays, tell my guest and listeners what I hear in it. And it's usually not necessarily about the lyrics, but about the influences and the different parts. And my brain immediately starts playing those parts of my head, like, "that sounds like, you know, a bass-line from an O'Jays song. And maybe that's what inspired the artist to include that kind of sound. But it really, it's really fun for me to hear something like this where somebody has incorporated all these different types of sounds. And it's like a really rich dish, of all these different sounds brought together. As I was listening to it right now, reading the lyrics, and processing it ... lyrically. I agree, you know, the themes here are all like, "I've had some challenges like we all had, and, you know, I don't want to be put in a box. I am my own person", all these kinds of themes. Yeah, it's, it's like a proclamation ... the song.

Evelyn Freitas:

Right? He mentions, you know, playing in the Coliseum. Love it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. So it has those local to local references in there, too. Yeah, yeah. And how did you ... how did you first hear about lyrics boring.

Evelyn Freitas:

Honestly, it's just something that popped up on a Pandora station one day, and my ears were sort of drawn over to the screen to see what I was listening to. And then I just started listening to more and more of his music and really, really fell in love with it.

Aaron Gobler:

Evelyn, your next song is "Moon Over Marin" by the Dead Kennedys. And I have to say this is very different from the previous song. So let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side. Evelyn musically, this song sounds so purely punk to me, and very accessible punk at that. It made me think about the Sex Pistols and also the Replacements. So what inspired you to include this on your list?

Evelyn Freitas:

The Dead Kennedys were one of my favorite bands in the early- and mid-80's. They used to play in Berkeley very frequently. And I would go see them. I've probably seen them seven or eight times. In fact, the first time I ever saw Metallica, Metallica actually opened for the Dead Kennedys at this little club called Ruby's down on San Pablo Avenue. And I really loved their energy. This is one of only a couple of songs of theirs that I think could really be played on the radio, the other one being "Holiday in Cambodia." And that is because to say that the Dead Kennedys were irreverent would really be an understatement. I mean, they were absolutely blasphemous. And you're right that this is one of their more poppy songs. And I think it is like the last track on the album that it's on the it's on the album "Plastic Surgery Disasters". And it just it's a song. I think that Jello Biafra didn't really want to promote because it doesn't have that really raw F-U feeling. I really love the song for a couple different reasons. It's believed that the inspiration for this song is a Bay Area oil spill that actually took place in 1971. That happened when a couple of oil tankers collided in the Bay and dumped about 800,000 gallons of oil into the Bay. And oil immediately began washing up later that day in the Berkeley Marina on the shores of San Francisco and all up the Marin coast. And what eventually happened there was like lots and lots of Bay Area people volunteered to clean up that oil. However, it was just this horrible, horrible thing that actually happened right here. The story of the song is that there's this guy in the future, and he's got his beachfront Marin property. And he's out there doing his workout on the beach every night, in his uniform and his gas mask. And that just painted such a picture for me of, on the one hand, how dark the future could be. And on the other hand, how good people could be at ignoring that and going about something that they would call their daily life. And then at the end, there's this segment where we hear from this this nice lady who tells us that a psychiatrist is available 24/7. And there are pills. And it's not exactly clear whether she's talking to the character in the song, the guy working out on the beach, in his gas mask, or us after having listened to this story of what the future could be like if things continued in a certain direction. Even as a science fiction fan, that made this song extremely interesting to me and made it well made it one of my

Aaron Gobler:

You mentioned "Holiday in Cambodia", and I free songs. believe maybe I've heard that song on "Guitar Hero" or something that's, I believe that maybe I heard that song.

Evelyn Freitas:

Wow, on Guitar Hero ...

Aaron Gobler:

But I don't know, really, their catalogue. And you're saying this particular one is more pop-focused, as opposed to some of the other stuff that they've done. I did look at the lyrics and and also watched the video for it. And the video basically, is a bunch of film clips of people cleaning up the beach. So yeah, that may be you know, back from what you're describing from 1971. And I hadn't really pictured the song as being some kind of futuristic thing, but it sounds like it's an an irreverent or dystopian view of like, what it would be like that the beach is so polluted that you have to protect yourself when you go out and, and the dead fish between your toes and all that other stuff.

Evelyn Freitas:

Right. Right? It's, it's awful. And it's almost a comic-book-like picture that we could imagine this guy out there with the moon, a beautiful full moon there in the sky. Meanwhile, this gaseous haze is coming up from the sand and the sheen of the oil is reflecting the light of the moon. And you got this guy, you know, what is he doing? Is he doing jumping jacks? Is he jogging laps up and down his little section of the beach? Who knows?

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. So very ironic take on this and very kind of dark.

Evelyn Freitas:

It's very, very dark.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, wasn't very inspiring. I think we have nice beaches. And I think the Marin beaches are nice right now. But I think we can fear that they may one day be situation like that.

Evelyn Freitas:

We have to be very, very careful to take care of this area where we live, and the Bay is ... it almost looks like two lungs in a way. It's got these two lobes that the Golden Gate is this little small entryway to and so it's important that we're very careful and aware and make sure that something like that doesn't actually happen here.

Aaron Gobler:

The Exxon Valdez spill happened in 1989. So it actually happened seven years after the song. So and we keep hearing about other spills that continue to happen.

Evelyn Freitas:

Right, and that these other spills that actually in terms of the volume of oil being spilled make this one in 1971 seems small. And that's incredible.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. This may be kind of prescient that they saw the horror of a spill. And almost foresaw that as part of our future.

Evelyn Freitas:

I think it's sort of a cautionary tale. It's a little bit of a warning. It's a warning that rocks.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. It's a way of getting that message into our psyche, through the means of a very, very accessible punk song. Now the last song on your list is a little bit different again, and I'm really delighted that you introduced me to this group, the song's title is "Positive Contact", and it's by Deltron 3030. Let's give that a listen. Evelyn I really enjoyed this song; it evokes from me sounds of Grandmaster Flash and Digital Underground and a bunch of other artists, and again, I really like this tune and thank you for including it. Why did you choose to to have a song when your list?

Evelyn Freitas:

Well, I'm really glad that you liked this song. I included it in my list because I really love a great concept album. And I'm also a science fiction fan. The whole album is a really great story. I'm actually going to read the Wikipedia description of it because the story is so great. "It's a concept album set in the year 3030. That tells the dualistic conflict of fatalism that takes place between the moral concepts of righteousness and malevolence. The story tells a prophetic tale of a warriors thirst for battle. As Del's alter-go, who goes by the name 'Deltron Zero', along with his comrade, who happens to be a time-traveling cyborg wizard named at 'The Automator' face off against megalithic corporations, that meglomaniacally roll over our thermodynamic universe." And the lyrics to the entire album were written in less than two weeks. It's just such a fun story. If you listen to the whole album, you get this whole sense of this future that is very information-based, and doesn't seem to be too much of a projection from where we are now. Except maybe for the fact that it's supposed to be taking place out in space somewhere.

Aaron Gobler:

Now this album was recorded in 2000, can you identify themes in it that we feel like maybe are already occurring in 22 years after it was recorded?

Evelyn Freitas:

That is a really great question. I find it interesting that it came out in the year 2000. When back then we were really wondering if our, you know, were our computers gonna stop working on at midnight on New Year's to see, I would say yes, there's a track on the album called "Virus", where the characters talking about devising a computer virus that will stop corporations from working and basically bring the system of commerce to a halt. In the words of that song, "crash the whole computer system and revert you to papyrus." We're seeing that happen right now, where companies are having their data taken hostage, and having to pay ransom just to be able to operate their businesses. And we had a pipeline shutdown, was that last year?, that really created a real situation that prevented people from being able to go about their daily lives as they had known them? Fun. Yeah? One thing, in answer to the reason that I picked this song, there's a line in the song itself, and it's because the song "clap your ear with Soulsonic Mantronik phonics" I'm powerless to resist ...

Aaron Gobler:

... that kind of sound.

Evelyn Freitas:

Exactly.

Aaron Gobler:

It definitely had some very creative lyrics. And how did you find out about this group?

Evelyn Freitas:

So actually, I got turned on to this music when I met Jake Ralston, who MCs or who introduces your show ... that voice at the beginning of the show, Jake played this album for me, and I really fell in love with it. It's been one of my favorites ever since. We listen to it pretty frequently.

Aaron Gobler:

Evelyn, is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections, like anything you thought about as we were playing the songs or something we haven't asked you about?

Evelyn Freitas:

No, I can't really think of anything. What I will say this .. as I was listening to these songs, they all just give me such a ... It's funny to say; they're so dark in some ways, and yet they give me such a wonderful optimistic feeling about the human experiment, because we have the ability to be so creative, and the songs, a couple of them, at least in some ways, talk about situations that can be pretty messed up. And if we can figure out ways to mess things up and figure out how they could be messed up in the future, we can also figure out ways to have them be perfectly wonderful in the future. And so that's one of the things that I really was feeling in myself listening to this music. And I think that may be part of what is attractive to me about them, even though they are somewhat dark. Music is wonderful, we happen to live in an area where there's so much music being created all the time, I would say, get out there, or get your ears out there and just listen to as much great music as you possibly can. Whatever kind you like, and let it feed your spirit.

Aaron Gobler:

It definitely feeds my spirit. I think it's difficult for it not to have a certain impact on your spirit. I'm just thinking again about the themes from the songs, and like you were saying about them being kind of dark, but then hopeful. And I was just wondering, do you feel like the stories are more like, there can be kind of darkness and problems, but there's always hope, or listen to my prophecy about the darkness and try to avoid it.

Evelyn Freitas:

I do not know what the answer is for each ... each performer. I think it's so fascinating that anybody who creates a work of creative expression, whether it be music or anything else, that thing that they create is so unique to them, it is a product of their mind and their vision. And each one of us is such a product of where we come from, and the experiences that we have. And so it's truly fascinating. It could be the cautionary tale, "people, please listen to me. And be careful so that the things I'm about to describe for you never happen!", right? Or it could be "no matter how bad things get, we're always going to find a way to get through it, because there will always be a moon over Marin". Even if the sand is laced with sticky blob, and you have to be careful not to step on fishbones, I certainly hope that we're not going to have that be our future reality. Either way, it is important for us to entertain the imagination, the possibilities of the outcomes, because what we do right here and right now puts us on a pathway to whatever is going to happen in the future. And so art in general, and music in particular, gives us the possibility of being able to think about these things that we do not want to have happen in a way that allows us to really kind of process them for ourselves without having that phobic reaction that makes us just want to run away and put our hands of yours.

Aaron Gobler:

What you said is great, and just encapsulates so much. Thank you for framing it that way. I think that's that's really a great encapsulation.

Evelyn Freitas:

Great.

Aaron Gobler:

So Evelyn, I had a lot of fun. Again, these three songs I had never heard before. And I got a chance to listen to them and digest them and then talk with you about them. It was it was it was a great time.

Evelyn Freitas:

Yes, I had so much fun today. Aaron, thank you so much for having me on your show. It's just been such a great time.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Thank you for taking the time to put your list together and to be on the show, Evelyn. And to my listeners if you want to be part of the show, start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's Radio Show.

Episode 35 : My Three Songs with Bari Siegel

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show ... the podcast ... with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 35. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today my very special guest is Barry Faye Siegel. I've known Bari since our days at Hofstra University on Long Island, which we both attended in the mid 1980s. She's a journalist, writing strategist and a self-described passionate wordsmith. Bari, thank you so much for being my guest today. It's great to catch up with you. What inspired you to be on the show?

Bari Siegel:

Well, first of all, I read about it when you were posting online. And it seemed really cool. I listened to a few of the episodes. And I was just really excited to catch up with you again. It's been a really long time.

Aaron Gobler:

Now, I know, Bari, you had had some online trivia games on Zoom back at the beginning of the pandemic. And that was a lot of fun. And I appreciate you putting that together. I got to meet a lot of your family that way.

Bari Siegel:

Yes, thanks. I'm, I'm a huge trivia buff. And the idea of being locked up and not being able to see friends was, you know, nuts for everybody. And I decided that I would start to collect trivia. And I signed up for a couple of daily emails where they would send me two or three trivia questions, and I started to compile them. And then a bunch of people had asked me to do it on a regular basis. So I would say for about four or five months, I was doing it every Saturday night. And it was fun. It was an hour of just fun. Nobody want anything other than just the the glory of knowing answers to crazy questions.

Aaron Gobler:

And I appreciate the amount of effort it takes to put something like that together. And certainly at the beginning of the pandemic, when it was just nice to have people together socializing in the best way we could. At the time.

Bari Siegel:

I agree with you, you know, one of the things that was fun about that is that I had been using Zoom prior to the pandemic, not a lot, but enough to be very familiar with it. And it was so funny that all of a sudden, it became the the mode of connection for the pandemic, but I was very used to it. So it was natural for me to put it on. And, you know, it was almost, in a way, like ... everybody has a glass of wine or, or a cup of coffee, and they were gathering and it was just it was fun. And I had a lot of weeks, maybe 50 or 60 people on so it was cool.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, it was it. I really enjoyed that. Thank you. Thank you again. So before we get officially started, can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Or is it usually in the foreground or the background?

Bari Siegel:

I think it's a funny way of asking that question. I would say it's absolutely in the background. When I compare myself to others, especially I've listened to a bunch of the other radio shows that you have done the episodes. And I noticed that different people come to music in different ways. I kind of call myself a one-hit wonder kind of fan but not really in the way we understand the term one-hit wonder. I guess I probably like a song or two from almost any group or person that's out there. Okay, but it's very possible that I couldn't tell you more than one or one or two of their songs with the exception of a very small handful. Your Billy Joels, your Elton Johns, your Carole Kings ... that I would say is my genre. But the reason why I suggested it's a background is because I'm not the kind of person that jumps in the car and immediately puts on music. I actually tend to listen to comedy on Sirius XM first, and then I might go toward "70s on 7" or "80s on 8", or news or that kind of thing. And more recently, I've gotten a little bit into country, but it's harder to listen to a country music station when maybe you like 10 songs, so 99% of the music that they play I've never heard before and I and I'm not really interested in ... so I did choose one country song which we'll talk about in a little while, for this. So it should be fun.

Aaron Gobler:

And when you say "70's on 7", I had another guest who use that same expression "70's on 7". So could you tell me is that? Is that a Sirius satellite channel? Is that what that is?

Bari Siegel:

Yes. So okay, Sirius XM, has "70s on 7", if you turn to channel seven, basically you have 24/7 of country music. And it's sort of cool because they actually have what year it is on the screen in the car. So if you're listening to it there, it's interesting to see where that song where you might remember it from or where it fit into your life at that point. Same thing with the 80s. There are a bunch of songs that when I hear them, I think of college, I think of our friends at school. And they have "90's on 9", they then move to something called "The Pulse". So my 24 year-old listens to music, she knows songs from the 70's. She obviously knows songs from the 80's and 90's. But she is definitely more of the 2000's. More more current. So I think some of us mid-50 year-olds mid, mid, maybe let's call it mid-to-Northern 50's, like "70s on 7".

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I hadn't heard that expression until until I spoke to the other guests. And so I was just trying to figure out what that was. But thank you for that explanation. So besides saying Elton John, or Billy Joel, or some other artists where you maybe know a deeper catalogue of theirs, you're saying that, you know, a lot of songs, lots of individual songs, or maybe even a few songs from this artist, a few songs from that artist. Exactly. Do you create playlists for yourself based on those individual songs?

Bari Siegel:

I feel like somehow I missed the boat on playlists. I know that sounds kind of funny. Everybody I know has a playlist, my husband has an extensive playlist. The way I handle music is I go to YouTube, and then just play it in the car. So I tend to try to find, let's say I'm thinking about Kelly Clarkson. Let's just use that as an example. I'm thinking about Kelly Clarkson. And I think about a song that she sings. So we might put that into YouTube. And it will come out with a list of songs that people who like Kelly Clarkson would listen to. So the first one might be her. But the next one might be somebody that's similar to her. So that's how I hear some other music. But I don't actually have a playlist on my phone.

Aaron Gobler:

So it's more of an organic thing. So you're, you're saying I want to hear from Kelly Clarkson, you and you're going to this kind of like, artificial intelligence engine on YouTube, which is going to then figure out what's the what's something similar to this that you might like, and that's how you're finding some new music, but it's in a style that you've already identified that you like,

Bari Siegel:

Exactly. And I think that that sort of AI is, is at its accurately called AI when you're referring to Alexa, because sometimes I'll say to Alexa, Alexa, play Carole King's "Beautiful", and it will play that song. And then it will say, "Would you like to listen to this?" However, on YouTube, people have actually arranged huge groups of songs. So all I really need to do is pick one. And then it just keeps playing.

Aaron Gobler:

So it's more of a curated thing. So someone's actually ... that's kind of interesting, right? So it just makes it so much easier, and so much more accessible to you. Because someone else has done the work of associating these songs and figuring out which things are in the same mode or genre, let's say.

Bari Siegel:

I think that's true. And I also think that, depending on ... just the other day, I was walking in a store. And it was a couple of hours ... it was New Year's Eve, and a couple of hours before the store was ... before it was really like party time for New Year's Eve. The store was closing in a half-hour and the music was turned up pretty loud. And one of the things that I noticed is that everybody in the entire store was singing out loud to the music, even masked. So I can't, in this moment, remember what the song was. But it was really funny that I then went to my car and thought, you know, that reminds me of this song, and then I would listen to it. So that's how I do it.

Aaron Gobler:

It's really fascinating how every person has their own way of seeking out music and then finding the next thing they want to listen to. Producing the show has really introduced me to a wide range of guests that find their music, play the music, find the next thing they want to listen to, it's all it's all very different. Everybody has their own method. And it's always fun to hear different approaches. So I really I really like your approach.

Bari Siegel:

Thank you very much. I know that you are the interviewer here. But being me I can't help Ask a question.

Aaron Gobler:

Go for it.

Bari Siegel:

... and that is, I find that sometimes I hear a song, and it becomes an ear worm, and I get very stuck on that song or songs by that artist. I was curious if that happens to you?

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, there's certain songs that become ear worms, or have become ear worms and almost like just become part of my body. And that, in my mind, I'll be singing them and I'll replace lyrics with other words that rhyme or something in my brain ... so songs like "Toxic" sticks in my head all the time, "No Rain" by Blind Melon, for whatever reason. I mean, I don't ... I probably would have to talk to some musicologist to understand why some of these songs really just stuck in my head. I don't necessarily love them. Really. But yeah, it's pretty fascinating. Like, what does it does it match? Do these songs sync up with some kind of internal rhythm I have ? Or, or something I do know that, like, there have been studies done on the song "Toxic" and why it is incredibly catchy. And so I had read some of those analyses, but I'm always whistling something or singing songs in my head, and then realizing that they sound like other songs, and I do the mashups in my head and stuff.

Bari Siegel:

It's super cool. I've never done that, specifically, I'll kind of I'll hear a song in a commercial. There was a Queen song in a commercial several months ago. And I could ... it just kept playing over and over in my head to the point where I was, I was really getting annoyed with it, because I couldn't stop playing. I looked up how to get rid of an ear worm. And I did what what the article said, and it really did work. The advice is that you need to sing the song in your head, and get to the end and finish the song. Don't just keep playing a few lines in your head, get to the end of the song, so that your brain almost puts a period at the end interesting. And it has worked for me different songs fall into that category. Or I'll just play them over and over again until I get sick of it.

Aaron Gobler:

One really poignant story for me, I was cleaning out an apartment back when I was a young adult because I was moving out and I heard a Don Henley song in the car. And then I spent the next nine hours, you know, just getting everything else out of the apartment. But I had no radio, because I was, you know, getting the last things out of the apartment had nothing there to listen to. So for like nine hours, that's all I sang to myself. It was almost like torture. It was like I had nothing else that I ... it was it was really, it was frightening. But I don't even remember which song it was now, which is a good thing, probably. But yeah, I that's a very interesting approach that you know ... there's certain ways to stop getting having hiccups and other kinds of things. I never thought about either just burning your brain out on the song or like you said, giving it some kind of end in your brain or just you seeking something else can start so.

Bari Siegel:

Exactly. And so and something always finds its way into that space, but sometimes you just get so sick of it.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Now right now my problem is I've been watching "X Files" so that theme song from the "X Files" is ... is before it was the theme song from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" because I was watching a lot of that. So it's like whatever's in the fore of my brain. Yeah. So you chose three songs and I don't know if they're gonna become ear worms for me, but I'm really eager to jump right in and give a listen to them. The songs you chose were "Ships", by Barry Manilow, from 1979. "Humble and Kind", by Tim McGraw, from 2016. And "Good Night Saigon", by Billy Joel, from 1982. So the only song I really know from this list is the last one, "Good Night Saigon". But after listening to "Ships", I realized that I had heard that at some point, I'm eager for us to both listen to these songs together. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So the first song on your list is "Ships" by Barry Manilow. Bari, Barry Manilow was a force of nature back in the 1970s when he produced his biggest hits. And I learned that this particular song was written by Ian hunter who was lead singer for the British band Mott the Hoople, who did the song "All the Young Dudes" and he also worked with David Bowie, and others ... It just seemed like quite a contrast to Barry Manilow. But what inspired you to include the song when your list?

Bari Siegel:

Well, first of all, I just let me correct you on one thing. If, if you're a Barry Manilow fan, then you understand the depth and breadth of his catalogue. And so the things that have been very popular like "Copacabana", or "I Write the Songs", that kind of thing, "Mandy", those are the the songs that obviously made him world famous ... people know those songs. But just like it is with any other musician, those are not necessarily the songs that are a real fan, a true fan, is going to listen to. So what I would say is that I've spent a lot of years kind of being the butt of jokes, of Barry Manilow jokes, because for whatever reason, being a "fannilow" is not a cool thing. As we discussed before, I don't have a list of songs on my phone when I had an iPod didn't have that. And I would also say that I'm not necessarily somebody who even would have had a lot of his songs. But I have gone to Barry Manilow concerts, probably I've been to 19 or 20 of them, and started going a very long time ago with a friend that I met in sixth grade. And we just bonded over it. And she and I just ... he's such a great performer. And we've had such a great time going to concerts over the years. So that even though he's not, Barry Manilow is not somebody that I listened to on a regular basis. There are a lot of songs that resonate. And the reason why I chose this specific song is because for me, one of the ways that I guess I decide that I like a song versus another song is whether or not the words stick with me. I remember them very quickly, because somehow they hold meaning for me. And this song holds particular meaning. My parents were divorced when I was eight. And there were not a lot of people who have whose parents were divorced at that point. And when this song came out, my parents had been divorced for a couple of years. And any song at that point that kind of spoke about separation, parenthood, that kind of thing. And there were several of them really hit me very hard. And so this is my song. And I know that everyone must have one or two of these. But if I feel like having a good cry, I'll put that song on in my car. And it brings tears to my eyes. I think that there's a couple of very, very poignant lines in the song. In the beginning, there's a line where he says, "I'm still here, it's just that we're out of sight". Yeah. And then, but later in the song, he, the father figure, says, "we only read you when you write," and it's kind of almost like Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle", right? The idea that, that the parent is ... the child is always looking for the parent's attention, and the parent is too busy. And then life changes a little bit. For me, this is a little bit different because my father moved away. And although I did have a relationship with him by phone, there certainly weren't cell phones back then. And I would see him maybe once a year. And so this song connected me with other people made me feel like, hey, if somebody wrote a song about this, I'm not the only one that feels this way.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's a very powerful nature of stories and songs, or stories in songs that some songs connect really, intrinsically or just very deeply. And I think just, I mean, this is part of comedy, too, is when somebody else is describing something that you've experienced, and you don't think others have experienced it. And there's some kind of communal thing that happens in that case, where you can laugh at it, or in this case, cry about it. Because you're realizing that somebody has put to words, something that you've been feeling for for some time.

Bari Siegel:

I think that that's very true. And I also think that there's, you talk about a force of nature, I think that there's also a force of nature, in the musical world in that I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but there are times when for no reason, a song will come to mind. And then I will get in the car, and I'll turn on music, and that song will play. And it hadn't heard it in a long time. And it just, it's it's almost like, you know, we're bound ... music binds us, even though I'm not somebody who would say that music is very central to their lifestyle. I do have many songs that I would consider to be part of the soundtrack of my life.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, we often use that expression soundtrack of my life in this kind of general sense. But in some ways, you could probably sit down and plot out in a timeline of your life and then associate songs to the different parts. So it really is in that definition. You know, really is a soundtrack to your life.

Bari Siegel:

What you just said is so true, because ... what I just thought of as you were making that comment is that when my daughter was born 24 years ago, I just like any other new mom sitting in the rocking chair, feeding her at two o'clock in the morning, and we had a small radio in the room, and it was set to kind of an easy listening, maybe pop station. And the theme song from "Titanic" was number one at the time. 24 years ago this week. So whenever I hear "My Heart Will Go On", immediately takes me right back to that rocking chair right back to the middle of the night. I can hear that ... there's like a Mike & the Mechanics song ... that ... it was almost as though at two o'clock in the morning, that radio station just had a number of songs that they played one after the other. I guess they figured not many people were listening at that hour. That was just a mini soundtrack. So even though I happen to like "My Heart Will Go On", I don't ever choose to listen to it. I think I've heard it enough times.

Aaron Gobler:

I believe this. And a lot of guests have said this as well, that music, or a particular song can really transport you ... transform your current mindset or feeling or comfort level or something, but also really transport you back to some other place. I had a guest who said that when she hears "Brown Eyed Girl", she can experience the smells of where she was when she heard that song. And I also mentioned to another guest that ... so I feel like it's almost like some hypnotic transportation. Sometimes when you hear a particular song, that whatever you're doing at that moment, your brain gets triggered or switched, almost like someone snapped their fingers or touched your shoulder or something. And then suddenly, you're in that space.

Bari Siegel:

Yeah.

Aaron Gobler:

Let's move on to your second song, which is "Humble and Kind", by Tim McGraw. Let's give that a listen. And we'll talk about it on the other side. Bari, this may be the first country song I played on the show. I really want to thank you for including this tune on your list. It's really, really a beautiful song ... very understated. And it has a great message ... one that I think it would be better world if we all follow this thought process. And this message, really, from the song. So what inspired you to include this song on your list?

Bari Siegel:

I guess there's a few things. I have a son who's 19 years-old. And he and I bond over music an awful lot. And like many other teenagers, he likes a lot of the kind of music that our parents probably didn't like when we played it at his age. And so I think we try to find a balance. He's not really interested in "70's on 7"; Barry Manilow does not light up his boy. But we found that in meaningful country songs, that there's something to talk about to try to figure out what the what the singer is really saying. And in this song, I thought about a variety of songs that I could choose for, to plug in here. And I chose this one because I think that there's a handful of messages that are really important. One of the most important lines comes for me at the very end, in the very last verse. "When you get where you're going ... don't forget to turn back around and help the next one in line." And I think that that message of Pay It Forward is a thing that every parent needs to not only breathe life into, but make sure that that's something that their children know. There's a lot of things that we hope we can get through to our children. And I think that that's a very, very important one. There's another part of the song where he says "when you've achieved what what you've been working for, take the time to feel pride about it, but stay humble and kind" at the same time. So I find it to be not preachy, where some country songs are preachy. The other part that when I listened to what I kind of certain things come out for me in this time that we were just listening to it. One of the things that really stood out is "I love you ain't no pickup line, always stay humble and kind" that I think that that's really important that the line before that is "know the difference between sleeping with someone and sleeping with someone you love." And I think the song is probably written for a generation of people who maybe don't understand that as much and I think it's pretty powerful to have to have that put out there. So I know I like a few McGraw songs and not a lot I'd probably there's probably, like hundreds of them that I couldn't even tell you what they were called. But there's a few. And that falls into that category of just liking a few that one person sings.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I don't think I know any other songs by Tim McGraw. But I certainly know of him. As you are reiterating some of the lyrics from the song, I definitely picked up those lyrics too. And it's made me wonder if this song could be written in any other kind of genre. It seems like the country music style seemed perfectly suited for his song. And I agree, it's, it's almost like a little lesson book or a little guide, a little field guide there to ways that you can be humble and kind that maybe younger generations have not really been, you know, learned that through other experiences in their lives.

Bari Siegel:

I think that's very, very true. And I don't know if you don't know what it's called, but they're thin pieces of wood, and they have sayings on them. And people kind of like ... I have one in my dining room that says No Stress Zone ... doesn't work very well. I'm not suggesting it works really well. I'm just saying that, that I see them in different places. And I brought my son, one that says "Always stay humble and kind". And funny enough, and this is the bad part of the story. This is the good and the bad part. On one hand, he nailed it to his ceiling. So when he opens it opens his eyes in the morning, it's the first thing he sees. And on the bad side, he nailed it to the ceiling. So it is there's two things there Right. Like it he wanted it to be a message that he woke up to Hmm. But at the same time, he, you know, kind of decided to vandalize the house so I you know what, whatever. But it is like a funny funny kind of thing. But when ever I hear a country song, I think that there's there's two sides of the of the coin on country. Right? There's ... my brother introduced me to some country music a number of years ago. Oh, and it was so odd. He lives in Atlanta, and I guess, technically the South, and he had been listening to some country music. And when he told me, I thought to myself, it just seems incredible that he would be listening to that. And he played a couple of songs for me. And they weren't that twangy kind of, I guess what we... somebody in our generation might consider to be country like, "All My Exes Live in Texas", or whatever, you know, those songs are, but more modern day country music has absolutely a message to it. And it's not kind of that twangy thing. And so I would definitely... I'd be happy to share some other ones that I feel like you would have the same kind of aha, that's a that's a really cool message type of thing.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, Carrie Underwood, had that song called "Before He Cheats". It's got a wonderful, it's just, it's just a wonderful song. All the visuals that it creates in your mind. Yeah, just so I hear you on that. I don't seek out country music. You know, this is an example where I just love this song. It says lots of good things for country songs.

Bari Siegel:

I'm really glad that I got to share it with you.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, thank you. And the last song on your list is by someone I know very well, Billy Joel. And this song is "Good Night Saigon". Bari, that is really an intense song. The lyrics are so powerful and just all the sparseness of the music beyond the piano. Just the negative space of that song is very powerful. It came out during our college years, I remember Billy Joel songs as being part of the larger soundtrack of our time at Hofstra. And that probably that's partly due to the fact that Billy Joel grew up on Long Island. Why did you choose to include this song?

Bari Siegel:

Well, even now, I sort of have goosebumps every time from the first time I heard that song to just the second I always I get the chills when I hear it. I've seen Billy Joel in concert a few times. And one time, I actually saw where he had arranged for a group of Vets to come up on stage. And when he gets to the part where you know, they stood arm in arm. And the it was so powerful to like ... he let the vets do the singing of that part. And I'll never forget that it's one of those things that just stays with you. I think that Billy Joel in general, brought very interesting parts of Americana to life. Many of his songs deal with very, very specific points. And they have a very specific message. And the message here is, is undeniable and anybody who listens to it and doesn't get moved in some way ... that would be kind of sad, that if you listened to that song and didn't get moved, because it's it is powerful, the words are powerful. I never thought about the negative space. But I think you're right about that also. And I think the, the helicopter, those sounds, you know, in the beginning, you have no idea what that is, when when you first hear the song. And then when, when the outro kind of is that again. It's it's also even more powerful. So yeah, there's just so many Billy Joel songs that I love. But that one is one of my favorites.

Aaron Gobler:

With this radio show. I'm sitting here in a very quiet room with my earpiece on listening to the song very closely, almost like staring at a piece of art, without any other distraction. And so I'm getting some deeper understanding or deeper appreciation for some songs that I just kind of listen to, nonchalantly to put it one way. And I picked up things like besides the helicopter sound, the bridge sounds kind of like a dirge the way that's done, and that there's just a slight percussion beyond the piano. And I guess some people might say, that's kind of like one of these little egg-shaped shakers that make this a little kind of sound. Yeah. And it's in a rhythm almost like a clock. And I don't know if that was purposeful or not, but it to me, it seemed like, you know, just counting down time, there was a reference to how one night could seem like six weeks. So this, this kind of like, subtle intensity, that, you know, that sound still going on through most of the song. Yeah, I told us like, I'm picturing some of these pieces of art you'd see in a museum, that's done with just tiny little dots of paint. And you can stare at it. And I think maybe even in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" when they're at the Chicago Institute of Art, and one of them is looking at the artwork, and they there, the camera just keeps zooming in and zooming in and zooming in on on one couple dots or something. But it's like, I just staring at the song for a long time. And you can pick out all these different parts of it. And it really is just a very, very beautiful song and you're right about Billy Joel as a storyteller in "Allentown", "Downeaster Alexa" and some other songs where it's really a whole story woven into the song and he's making certain points about people's lifestyles or how the country has done or not done for certain people. There's a lot of moral stuff woven into into a lot of that.

Bari Siegel:

Agreed. And I think, you know, "We Didn't Start the Fire", which is not one of my favorite Billy Joel songs. But that's the ultimate in that right is where we get so sick of everything. And Billy Joel's own personal story. You know, he's so famous and wealthy and he's had so much good fortune has so much talent, but he's also his own personal story is rather sad. And so the fact that he turned a lot of that toward his music, for me is very powerful. And I wanted to mention that, you know, I had always known the line "one night seemed like six weeks", and that they repeat Parris Island, but this time, just like you, I zeroed in on that and thought about what that meant for if you could imagine just, you know, sitting, you know, being in a foxhole, not knowing when the next explosion was going to happen, and just seeming like it was forever. And that's very powerful. It's like a lot of songs so you can listen to any one of them and put yourself in, you know, wherever he is. I mean, even "Piano Man" is so commercially successful. But I happen to love whenever I get the chance to go to a piano bar or dueling pianos are that kind of thing. And the piano player always hates playing "Piano Man". They mean they almost say I'm gonna play it first so that nobody asks me to do this. It's true, but the ... that and "Sweet Caroline" right? But the fact is, is that if you allow yourself to listen to some of these songs that have become kind of bubblegummy you you know exactly where you can put yourself in that moment of being in that bar. And I guess you know, we've said this a few times, but Billy Joel, I can place you know where things have happened in my life to various Billy Joel songs.

Aaron Gobler:

Bari, is there is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections like something you may have thought of while you were listening to one of the songs or something we haven't covered?

Bari Siegel:

Well, I wanted to thank you for having me and for inviting me to do this. It's It's been really fun. It's been great catching up with you. And also, I don't think that I've ever taken the opportunity to really think about why I like the songs that I do. And I think that after listening to a bunch of the interviews that you've done through this radio show, that it's taught me to maybe if a song resonates with me, if I hear a song, and it really resonates, maybe taking that time to listen to it a little bit more closely, and, and so I've learned a little about myself and the way I interact with music. So I wanted to thank you, not only for having me on the show, but for giving me that little piece of self awareness.

Aaron Gobler:

Awesome. I'm delighted that that that you had such a takeaway from the experience. I've had people tell me that it's been very difficult in some cases to come up with their song some people said, like, right away, they knew what their songs would be. It's just like three little windows into your, into your life. And I certainly appreciate everybody who's who's come on the show and shared that. Whether it's been a nice revisiting or an exploration and discovery. I do. Thank you again, for your time today and for your list. Absolutely.

Bari Siegel:

I would just also say that anybody who's listening who's thinking about wanting to participate, do it for two reasons. First of all, catching up with Aaron is great. And second, because it really has been an eye-opening experience. Sometimes we listen to our favorite songs, and and just know that we love them. We don't think about them as much and this gave me an opportunity to really think.

Aaron Gobler:

Thank you for that promotion. And thank you again, Bari. And I want to say to my listeners if you want to be part of the show, because Bari is imploring that you consider this ... and me too ... start by going to our website, Aaron's Radio dot show, and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage, and you can also sign up for our mailing list, so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

You're listening to Aaron's radio show

Episode 34 : My Three Songs with Amy Mendelson

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show ... The Podcast, with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake, and welcome everybody to Episode 34. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest when we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Amy Mendelson. Amy is another one of my good high school friends. And I want to shout out to the Lower Merion High School Class of 1983 ... it's been a huge font of guests for the show. Amy, thank you so much for being my guest today. It's so great to catch up. How are you today? And what inspired you to be on the show?

Amy Mendelson:

Well, Hi, Aaron. Thanks so much for having me. First of all, I think what inspired me was when you first announced this, I believe on a Facebook post. And, you know, I thought it was very intriguing that you not only wanted to know what music we liked, but what was the meaning behind it? What was the emotional connection or historical connection? And so, I thought, Wow, I feel like I have plenty of those little anecdotes to share. So I thought, well, I'll agree, I'll do it. So that's why I'm here. And I appreciate it.

Aaron Gobler:

Did your list come quickly to you? Or did you feel like you had a bit of a struggle or challenge?

Amy Mendelson:

No, actually, it came pretty easily to me. My background is that I've moved a lot as a kid, and so I think music in general was kind of a thread that wove through all these moves, I'm able to remember things based on a song I heard when I lived as a kid in New Jersey, or when we went to New York City when I was really little. And then we moved to California, and then we moved back to Philadelphia. So I the list came pretty quickly. It makes me smile to think that I can share these with you and with people. So that's how I came to it.

Aaron Gobler:

Great! Well, I do appreciate you putting the list together. And before we get started, can you tell me how music fits into your life? You kind of started alluding to that? Did you? Do you seek it out? Or is it usually in the foreground or background of each day?

Amy Mendelson:

Well, first of all, like I said, my background is is that you know, as a small child, my parents were very musical very interested in music. My grandfather and my father worked in on Broadway and met in musicals and shows. So we constantly had soundtracks for musicals on the radio, Big Band, anything that was when I was very small. And then in California, we had a lot of 70s music on and yeah, now as an adult, I listen to music all day long. I'm very fortunate. I'm one of those people that can't listen to music when they're writing or reading. I have three kids, and they all seem to be able to do that just fine, but I can't but I can do it when I'm being creative when I'm painting or doing graphic design work. So so I'm thankful and I'm usually doing those activities. And I guess the other activity that I do ... if you remember ... I was kind of the jock artist in high school. So I still work-out and I take long walks ... speed walk and I always listen to music too. So I guess Yeah, music is always on for me, unless I have to really concentrate on something.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you have playlists for certain types of activities? I have had other guests that say well, they've got their, you know, their jogging playlist or ... different ... puts them in the right energy level or mood.

Amy Mendelson:

Oh, you know, I guess it just depends. Like this morning. I mean, I'm pretty eclectic. This morning. I listen to Bob Marley. I listen to James Taylor and Van Morrison, a group from North Carolina called Mipso. The Florida Tedeschi Trucks Band, which is kind of like a soul group and so just very eclectic. So just happy, usually happy music or things that keep me going for that endeavor. Anyway, I'm pretty motivated. I'm a pretty motivated person. So I don't need it for motivation. Just a background for that.

Aaron Gobler:

Do you find when you hear certain songs, you're transported to the time and place where maybe you heard it the first time or where time of your life when that song was was being played a lot?

Amy Mendelson:

Oh, absolutely. And that's and that's kind of where some of the songs come. I'm from like I said, we moved from New Jersey to the Bay Area, San Francisco Area, where I guess you're from the West Coast now. We listen to a lot of music. And I can remember where I was at certain times and certain places, I guess. Yeah, definitely will take me back there. Kind of a fun side note is that we do go out to California during the summers in the mountains, we still have our family cabin, and the only station we listen to is "The 70s on 7". So ... that's what I thought was a really funny thing. It literally we do, like so my kids have been inundated with 70s music since they were little because that's where the 70s never changed. California, for me has not stopped being the 1970s. So, so we have fun with that.

Aaron Gobler:

I would say if I had to poll the guests that I've had on, or just their interviews, I can glean that the 70s was a very poignant time, some people have said the 80's were the best music that they've heard. And most of my guests are in our age bracket, mostly, like I mentioned a lot of high school friends. So there's probably something about the 70s for us when we were probably you know, in our younger years at that point.

Amy Mendelson:

But wait a minute, isn't that before? I think that's before our time! No ... I'm just kidding!

Aaron Gobler:

That's right. What am I saying?

Amy Mendelson:

I have another fun fact. When we lived in San Mateo, we lived a few doors down from a very famous music producer. And at the time, he had Herbie Hancock, Journey, Santana, the Pointer Sisters, and I was very close with his kids. And we spent a fair amount of time with them. And I didn't know I was 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. I didn't know who those men and women were that were coming. They might have been superstars. I don't know who they were, you know. So those and that was the San Francisco sound at the times. And I do have eclectic tastes. And so it is ironic that I have chosen a lot of music that came from the 70s, which I know you're gonna Yeah, you're gonna ask me about!

Aaron Gobler:

Amy, the songs you chose were all from the 70s. Before we get into the songs, I'd like to offer you some time to talk about Bruce Springsteen, I currently don't have the proper license to use his music on the radio show. But I'd love to hear why Springsteen and his music are meaningful to you.

Amy Mendelson:

Oh, that's great. I'm so glad we can talk about this because this is a great story. So like I said in the

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Thank you. I think back to Joe Piscopo from beginning, I'm a Jersey Girl, actually. So of course, there you go. That's one, check-off the box to say why I love Bruce. The real story is, is when I was a kid, we moved. We were New Yorkers New Jerseyans, and we moved to San Mateo, California. And I felt like such an outsider. And I didn't know anybody. And I would just tell people, I'm from New Jersey, I'm from New Jersey. I mean, this is literally a six-and-a-half, seven-year-old kid. So I'm telling kids this for about two or three years. And then I still remember vividly what we were doing. We had one of those old woody station wagons, and we pulled into the carport because you know, we had a small little house with a carport. And we were listening to, I guess rock and roll music because my parents who always had music on too, so they were encouraging us to listen. And all of a sudden the DJ says, "...and here's that guy from New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen with his number one hit ..." or something like that, and it was "Born to Run" and I was like, ah, somebody else is from New Jersey. Like it was the it was like the I mean, I literally probably cried, I was just so excited to be able to tell people! So the next day at school, I told them, I'm from New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen's from New Jersey. So that's my that's that's how I got involved with Bruce Springsteen. And I love that because I literally literally he gave me this like support to say I am somebody I'm from New Jersey, because people would you know, people kind of gave New Jersey a bad rap. And I didn't even know why. Because I was a little kid. You know, I'm going to talk about the other fellows but Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, they definitely were my and Billy Joel were definitely the three men other than probably my dad and my grandfather have had a real big influence on my life. The lyrics, the music, the storytelling, the you're not alone kind of feeling from all I feel like you get from these sent these artists is just powerful for me. And so I'm, I'm grateful to them. And I'm grateful that I discovered them, like I said, among we were listening to musicals and how we were listening to Big Band, we were listening to Tony Bennett, in which I who I still love, things like that. So yeah, and then all my other 70s music too. So that's my Bruce Springsteen story. Saturday Night Live, had a bit where he would ask somebody "Are you from Jersey?" And then he'd say "I'm from Jersey!"

Amy Mendelson:

Yes. Yeah. Yeah, I forgot about that. Yeah, terrific.

Aaron Gobler:

Jersey gets a bad rap, but the country really would be very different without that state. I mean, it's got some some important well-known cities, right. Well, relatively well-known cities, but it seems to be the odd man out the way I always imagined Jersey is like Little New York and Little Philadelphia, and then Central Jersey.

Amy Mendelson:

I kind of joke around that I'm the first person born in America not in one of the five boroughs of New York. They went like 10 more miles west and stopped in near Newark and had me! So yeah, I'm definitely definitely a Jersey girl.

Aaron Gobler:

Great. Thank you. Amy, The songs you chose were "Your Smiling Face" by James Taylor from 1977; "You're My Home" by Billy Joel from 1973; and "Boogie Shoes" by KC and the Sunshine Band from 1978. I'm eager for us both to listen to these songs. And I'm interested in knowing why each of them is meaningful to you. So me, let's listen to the first song on your list, "Your Smiling Face" by James Taylor. Amy, I'm a big James Taylor fan. In fact, I saw him in concert many, many times at the Mann Music Center in Philadelphia in the 80s and 90s. I want to thank you for including this joyous song on your list. What inspired you to include the song?

Amy Mendelson:

That's a good question, Aaron, "Your Smiling Face" just I don't know, when I was a kid people always used to say, Oh, you always smile, you always smile, it just comes pretty easily. It does come pretty easily to me. And so I don't know, I guess, with the COVID situation, I've also noticed, you know, it's hard for people nowadays because they don't get to see people smiling at them. And I think we do lose a lot. And I do think that smiling is really important. And I mean, I think it comes easy for me, because I just naturally, I'm pretty happy ... my cousins, and my friends joke around, I must have a happy gene or something. I really do feel that it's a gift that you give to other people to smile. And so it sounds goofy, but you know, walking down the street, like, before the pandemic, you know, it would be nice to just smile at people. You know, it makes people's day. So I mean, out of all the songs, that was the reason why I chose this particular one. This is kind of a lighthearted song and some of them are maybe a little bit more meaningful to me you might be it might be heavier, but I don't know, I just thought it would be nice to hear it and share it and and just say I'm hopeful for the future when we can smile at each other again. And so that's that's why I chose the song.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, but with music, though, it's just the audio that you were hearing, right? You could imagine things in your mind from hearing the song. And you wouldn't have, say, a video of the song, in your mind to go to but physiologically you're just listening to the song automatically triggers some kind of positive energy in you and I think you have to be smiling when you're singing it. It's certainly not one of James Taylor's more deep songs or this is a very simple song. And it's very upbeat. So if it makes you smile just by playing it or listening to it or singing it, and he's done his job.

Amy Mendelson:

Yeah, yeah, I thought that for sure. That's why I thought it would be nice. I feel like sometimes I can juxtapose lightheartedness with seriousness, so I felt like this would be a good lighthearted you know, one to pick.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah. Oh, it's a great song. It's a great song. Thank you for for having that on your list. The next song that you chose was "Your My Home" by Billy Joel. And that was from 1973. So that's give that a listen, and we'll talk about that on the other side. Amy, this tune is from Billy Joel's early years. I don't recall hearing it before. But I want to thank you for sharing it. What inspired you to include the song in your list? Okay, so

Amy Mendelson:

Remember how I said that other song was lighthearted because I needed that because this one is emotional for me. This song, which I had, didn't know that it was originally from 1973 I believe was in a 1981 or 1980 compilation album called "Songs in the Attic." I believe that the Billy Joel had? We had moved to Pennsylvania, that's when I knew you. And we, like I said been from New Jersey, my parents from New York to New Jersey to San Francisco. Now we're near Philadelphia. And at some point, I guess early in high school, my Dad and I started to hang out more and do ... well we'd always ridden horses together. But we started playing squash, and also riding horses. Those facilities were not close by so we would take a half-hour drive. And so we listened to a lot of Billy Joel, and one time ironically, this is a great story, but it also very poignant for me. We were either on the Pennsylvania Turnpike or near it and this song came on. And I was I listened to it and I thought I immediately got this visceral feeling of like, oh my gosh, this is my parents' story. You know, I'm getting emotional. They, they literally they literally met at 16 and 20 in Brooklyn, New York. And they they were ready to see the world and so we went from you know, like I said to New Jersey, where I was hatched, I suppose. And then we went to California and we have a cabin up in the hills of California. And we were on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And so it was just very moving for me. I just immediately took right to it. And so, ever since that I think about my parents whenever I hear this song ... so, sorry, you got me. You got me there. See, I told you, I would cry. Billy Joel is just so, so thoughtful. And I mean, he's had his pop hits for sure. And, but really, he's another storyteller. I believe I, I think, like I said, Springsteen, James Taylor, Billy Joel. They're all storytellers. Yeah. I feel like I feel like they have something to offer everybody they have an a song, you know, you're my home. I mean, I don't know. I feel like you I feel centered and grounded with these musicians and with their, their lyrics and their music. And so yeah, that's why I chose that song is for my parents.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, that's a beautiful story. The song is very understated. Lyrically, it's very, certainly very poetic. And just the simple instrumentation and the southern sensibility of the slide guitar, and just a beautiful song. It was originally on the "Piano Man" album, but it got re popularized from "Songs in the Attic." And that was from '81. Yeah. Well, that's really cool ... how that story kind of parallels or almost like a map of your parents' relationship.

Amy Mendelson:

Indiana was the only place that we've never been. I think they went Wisconsin, maybe I think they lived in Wisconsin at some point.

Aaron Gobler:

Well, maybe you have to take a drive over to Indiana listening to the song.

Amy Mendelson:

Yeah. My Mom and I will make a road trip.

Aaron Gobler:

The last song in your list is, is very different than the first two. And I'm really excited to listen to the song. I love this song. I love this artist, and it's just so fun to listen to their songs. The last song is "Boogie Shoes" by KC and the Sunshine Band. So let's put on our Boogie Shoes. And check out the song. I just love that ending. Amy, I used to Disc Jockey parties and I think I always played at least one KC song. They created so many memorable hits in the 70s. Why did you choose to include the song?

Amy Mendelson:

Well, I guess. Now we'll do this chronologically. I'll take you to Virginia, where I went to college ... Art School, VCU Arts ... shout-out to VCU Arts ... all the artists and painters that I love ... know and love. It was a very concentrated creative environment. And so I didn't do a lot of going out or partying per se. I guess I didn't do that at all in high school either. But I remember going out dancing all the time. And like there were Ska bands and funk bands and reggae bands and things like that. And so I just I was really into dancing. I also played volleyball, I was pretty competitive volleyball player. So I was always I always fancied myself as very physical person. And so flash forward some more years, and I had my first child and have kind of a, I guess they call it a galley style kitchen. So it's like a long, narrow space. And at some point ... I guess it was the summer of 1999 was when I had my, my oldest son. And the song started to come on. And I was like, Oh, this is great. It reminded me when I was younger, and I guess I felt like at that point, he was sturdy enough that I could dance around with him. I literally would dance and kind of like glide and almost... Yeah, we would just dance up and down and he would just giggle and laugh. And I would say my my my Boogie shoes. And we did that that whole summer. And literally his first words were "ma ma". And so I joke around that like thank you the KC and the Sunshine Band because I think statistically most children babies say "dada" first. And but and he and literally he started saying mama and I think it was from the ma ma ma ma Boogie shoes. Yeah, give them the credit the ma ma ma ma part. So yeah, I think I always want to hear that. So that's my song with him. So and each each of my kids I had several songs that we would dance to In the kitchen and is emblematic of me being a parent and trying to kind of spread joy and love of music to my children. So and we kind of did that a little bit although it's funny because for my daughter "Can't Get Enough of Your Love" was the song and she she kind of was like "Ew! What is that?!" When she got older she you know, Barry White with his very sultry voice I think was not I'm talking about when she was two or three or four or five. She was a little baby maybe maybe not her speed or whatever. But so that was but yeah, it was I love being a parent. I love sharing my music with my kids. They used to rock all the time. "Badlands", Bruce Springsteen song they would always they would kind of bang their heads in the car! Maybe they would listen to that song. And so yeah, I chose that. Because, yeah, because it was just a very happy memory for me being a mother of a young child; I hope it made you smile, too.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, yes. It's hard not to smile, listening to KC and the Sunshine Band. You have three children. Are they all music lovers or have a same passion about music now? Er, they're in their late teens? Mid 20s, right?

Amy Mendelson:

Yes, they are actually, it's funny. It's pretty eclectic, though. But, um, my oldest, went to college in North Carolina and came back not not a country music person necessarily, but a bluegrass afficionado; there's a group called Mipso, from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and they're terrific. So I've kind of, he's taught me a little bit more about bluegrass. And that's really nice. And I live in Virginia. And so there is definitely the country music experience here. My daughter really enjoys country music, and then my youngest of all things is a big rap fan. And he is a Kanye West fan. I have It's the strangest thing, sometimes he'll he'll write something down or that he wanted to have a big poster. And it was the Kanye quote, like, what? Where did you hear that? You know, so it's funny, they all have, they're pretty eclectic. And, but, but I've learned a lot from them. It's kind of fun. And they and they, they're definitely they like my music, too. And so that's good. So yeah, we have a good time with all of it,

Aaron Gobler:

it does make me wonder if the music thing is a nature or nurture? Or if it's one of those things, it's kind of both Do we have some kind of gene in us that responds to music a certain way? And that's passed on to our children? Or is it really just how the how we interact with music? Or in terms of playing or singing or performing or whatever that our children pick up from an early age? And then also kind of develop that as well?

Amy Mendelson:

Sure, yeah, I think it's exposure ... definitely could be exposure, and then maybe it's comfort, you know, it'd be solace and comfort for some people. And music changes, though, too. You know, I mean, at some point, a song that you interpret a certain way becomes something different when you experience something. So for me, music sometimes has changed for me, I have one instance that I can recall. And I'm a 10-year cancer survivor next week, and I'm a big Elton John fan as well. And at some point, during this time period, that 10 years ago, the song "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me", I would have a visceral reaction to that, of course, wouldn't you? right? I would be like, wait a minute is my time up?? But you know, it, it doesn't, I don't feel that same way now. So that's a good thing. And it's just but it's just interesting, I find it interesting that music takes on different meanings at different time. times in your life, you know, "I'm Still Standing". It's another song that, you know, an Elton John song that, you know, it's kind of a triumphant can can be considered kinda triumphant whether you're overcoming adversity of any kind. So, but I don't know that I would have thought that when I first heard it years ago, you know, and then when I saw his biopic, I was like, Oh, I understand that song too ... and in his eyes ...

Aaron Gobler:

That's an interesting perspective. It can be kind of a Rorschach test, in some cases, and like you're saying it one song can mean different things to different people. But I hadn't really thought about how one song being listened to at one point in your life, and then a different point in your life, how you could feel differently about it.

Amy Mendelson:

Absolutely. Yeah, I didn't realize that either. So I think that that's pretty interesting. Now on a lighter note, it could also be locale right? This is, I thought about this too, "You Shook Me All Night Long". I mean, if you're in California, you worry about earthquakes, right, but you know, you see where I'm going with this right? If you're somewhere else, if you're somewhere else, it might mean something else. So I guess it's you know, everyone, I guess it's all about perspective in this world anyway, right in our life. You know, everyone, everyone comes with a different perspective. And it's, and thank you for letting me share mine.

Aaron Gobler:

My pleasure. Is there anything else you'd like to share about your selections that maybe you thought about while they're playing or that you're you haven't included?

Amy Mendelson:

Well, Aaron, I guess now that I've listened to those again, I guess I really do believe that music can take us to different places and different times in our life and really, really to give us like comfort we were talking about so I'm thankful to have music around me.

Aaron Gobler:

Yes, and thank you again for that observation. The central concept for My Three Songs really is to talk about three songs that are meaningful to you. And for a lot of people those songs trigger certain things certain memories are certain feelings and and you know, through our discussion when it's clear that these songs each have strong meaning to you, and in some cases trigger you know, certain feelings in you that make them very meaningful. So, so I do appreciate you taking the time to put your list together. It was really fun catching up with you. We need to talk some more not like you know, every 20 years or something. I hope you had a good time too.

Amy Mendelson:

Oh, Aaron. Yes, it was wonderful. I really enjoy talking about some of their songs and I hope that every One can feel their passion in their music in their own particular music, whatever it is, whether it's country rap, pop, whatever, I just, I definitely think it's a it's good for everyone good for everyone's body and soul. And you know, especially with what's going on these days in the world, I think we all need some mental health music. So, so go listen to your favorite songs. Enjoy.

Aaron Gobler:

Yeah, I second that. Ah, I second that emotion, to paraphrase a song. So thanks again Amy! And to my listeners ... if you want to be part of the show. Start by going to our website Aaron's Radio dot show and clicking on the My Three Songs button on the homepage. You can also sign up for our mailing lists so you'll know immediately when a new episode is available. You can also find Aaron's Radio Show on your favorite podcast service, but the podcast episodes only include interviews and no licensed music. Until next time, keep your ears and mind open and let more music into your world.

Female voice:

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Episode 33 : My Three Songs with Erika Gimbel

Transcript

This transcript was originally generated using artificial intelligence ("AI") software. It has been edited by a human being, but it may still contain some misspellings, lack necessary punctuation, or include other anomalies. We are regularly working to improve our transcripts!


Jake:

Coming to you almost live from Berkeley, California, it's Aaron's Radio Show ... with your host, Aaron Gobler.

Aaron Gobler:

Thanks, Jake. And welcome, everybody to Episode 33. Welcome to My Three Songs, where I play three special songs chosen by my guest, and we talk about why they chose each song. Today, my guest is Erika Gimbel. I've known Erika through several business networking groups in the Bay Area. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and a fruit and vegetable advocate. And she's also a fanatical swimmer. Erika, thank you so much for being my guest today. What inspired you to be on the show?

Erika Gimbel:

Fun, it sounded like it would be fun to be on your show. And I am looking for fun. And I really enjoyed listening to some of the previous shows, and just hearing all of these great people coming on. And it's really hard to pick three songs. So I I'm giving it a shot. And I hope I get to come back and do another crop of three songs.

Aaron Gobler:

That's great. I don't ask people for their favorite songs, but three songs that are important to them. And if you're really passionate about music, then it is really a challenge and an exercise to find three songs.

Erika Gimbel:

Yeah ... it's ridiculous. It's a very ... at some point, I just ... the part of my brain that was trying to do it right gave up and it was just like, what is going to be fun? You know.

Aaron Gobler:

So this is Erika's fun set of songs we'll be hearing today?

Erika Gimbel:

Yes. Do that!

Aaron Gobler:

Well, that's awesome. Go all need fun in our lives. So before we get started, Erika, can you tell me how music fits into your life? Like do you seek it out? Is it usually the foreground or the background of each day?

Erika Gimbel:

Well, good that you asked that. I find music is in my life from the beginning till the end of my day. And I oftentimes will, you know, do some writing to some music with Baroque music. And I studied piano, flute, I'm a longtime beginner guitar player, like, I'll forever be able to play these five songs on my guitar. And maybe someday, I'll be able to say, I have progressed to a little more advanced guitar. But I definitely grew up with a lot of music in my life, and it was, you know, singing was a strategy to help keep us awake on the way home from grandparents. So they didn't want to put us to bed a second time. So it was a strategy to stay awake all the way home from Brooklyn to where my parents lived ... in New York. It was all in my world. And I wake up with music in my head, I go to sleep with music in my head. So it's, it's a big part of my life. And it's, it's also really healing. I have a playlist music for therapy. And that playlist I keep adding to you know, it's just, it's just such a great way to change one's attitude, mood, uplift, calm down, you know, all those things, mental health stuff, you know,

Aaron Gobler:

In your practice, do you prescribe, per se, music to clients?

Erika Gimbel:

Prescribe? That's a funny word. But yes, I recommend ... I do have a memory of sharing, you know, a song or two with different clients. Because as a psychotherapist, like, you know, we bring in tunes for sure. That's sort of for mental sanity. And this the, one of the songs I picked today is actually a song that's great for that very purpose of like, when somebody has hurt feelings. So that's definitely